Rashmi Rocket movie cast: Taapsee Pannu, Priyanshu Painyuli, Abhishek Banerjee, Supriya Pathak, Akash Khurana, Chirag Vora, Varun Badola, Supriya Pilgaonkar
Rashmi Rocket movie director: Akarsh Khurana
Rashmi Rocket movie rating: 2.5 stars
At an interesting juncture in the film, a testy judge asks a lawyer with a tinge of sarcasm, ‘Aap Hindi film bahut dekhte hain kya? Asliyat mein courtroom mein itna high drama nahin hota.’ (Do you watch too many Hindi films? In reality, there’s not so much drama in courtrooms). The statement is an exact match for the tone of ‘Rashmi Rocket’, a film about a female athlete who runs the gauntlet of peer jealousy, institutional patriarchy, and an archaic gender test in her quest for the top.
The film takes its major plot point from the real-life story of Dutee Chand, who was disqualified after she was found to have excessive testosterone (hyperandrogenism) after she won a race. Chand’s struggle to have her suspension removed so that she could compete again is well-documented, making it a great subject for a film, even one which has, according to the opening credits, ‘fictionalised the characters, circumstances and situations by way of cinematic liberty’.
In Akarsh Khurana’s film, Rashmi Vira (Taapsee Pannu) is shown as a spirited tomboy right from her carefree childhood in Kutch, where her loving parents (Surpriya Pathak and Manoj Joshi) encourage her to put her face to the wind, and run her heart out. After a few bumps on the road, Rashmi, ‘as fast as a rocket’, finds herself training hard at the national level, and this time her opponents are not just a man-made disaster (the earthquake in the Kutch region which leads to a tragic loss), or the cutesy banter with her mum (Supriya Pathak), but a few of her envious teammates. It is time for the plot to be hatched.
The film yo-yos between keeping it real and maintaining its dramatic pitch. The places where Pannu is believable make us believe too. The race-track sequences in which her Rashmi looks super fit and raring to go are arresting, but there are other places where Pannu lets the effort show. Priyanshu Painyuli, who plays an army man and Rashmi’s partner who always has her back, is rock solid. Abhishek Banerjee’s committed advocate who takes up Rashmi’s cause, catches our eye too, even if his character is made to do the occasional silly thing.
It’s good to see the criminally underused Varun Badola back on screen as a machinating Athletics Federation official, but you wish he had been given more to play with. Chirag Vohra, as part of Rashmi’s extended family, and so good in ‘Scam 92’, is wasted. You could put it down to the fact that most Hindi films which revolve around a titular character, create other characters solely to buoy or amplify the former.
It’s not just the push-and-pull of keeping it grounded while ratcheting the high drama quotient. You also have to get past the film throwing constructed spanners in the works: often a flimsy scene or situation feels inserted, or a dialogue underlined, and the incessant background music keeps calling attention to itself. A few eye-roll moments threaten to derail things: why would a pregnant couple, having heard a doctor saying ‘thoda risk hai’ go out and do the exact thing that has been deemed risky? But then you return to Rashmi fighting the good fight, for herself and for other athletes who have been done against in similar fashion, and you want to cheer. For keeping sporting women on top, and for the very worthy cause.