Ghoomer review: Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher's stellar acts will move you | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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Ghoomer review: Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher's stellar acts will move you

Aug 17, 2023 08:40 AM IST

Ghoomer review: R Balki's latest film is a sports drama about a cricketer who loses her right arm and learns to reclaim her life.

It's the night of Diwali and Saiyami Kher comes to wish her coach Abhishek Bachchan, and tells him it's a day to be happy. In return, he asks her to bowl in torchlight while she's wearing a saree. She does and nails it. It's a beautifully written and shot scene, intended to show how one can push their boundaries. And Ghoomer has several such goosebumps-inducing moments. From practising on a makeshift pitch in the backyard to playing in a stadium in England, Ghoomer immerses you in the world where heart meets logic. It's a well-made film that tells us the power of self-belief and never give up attitude in life. It inspires and empowers at the same time.

Ghoomer review: Abhishek Bachchan and Saiyami Kher in the film.
Ghoomer review: Abhishek Bachchan and Saiyami Kher in the film.

Director R Balki doesn't beat around the bush about what he wants to say or show through the film, and he straightaway dives into the journey of Anina (Saiyami), a cricketer with a dream of securing a spot in the Indian National Women's Cricket team. And when she does get selected, fate has something else in store for her. Days before leaving for the tournament, she loses her right arm in an accident. Having lost all hope to ever play cricket again, she gets suicidal thoughts until one day when Padam Singh Sodhi aka Paddy sir (Abhishek), a failed and frustrated former cricketer, who is now an alcoholic too, comes knocking at her door. The next day, she's at his door, looking for a second chance at life, at the game and at being a winner. How Paddy turns her coach and how she turns into a left-arm bowler from a batter is what Ghoomer takes us through.

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Strong writing and uncomplicated screenplay

Ghoomer is loosely based on the true-life story of a late athlete who suffered a catastrophic hand injury and went on to won two Olympic gold. Balki's has co-written it with Rahul Sengupta and Rishi Virmani and the film rides heavily on empathy. With a strong writing and uncomplicated screenplay, he effortlessly manages to make you connect with his characters. Be it Anina's struggle or Paddy's despair, you feel empathetic towards both. While Anina's condition makes you feel helpless, at no point Balki shows her in a pitiable state and that I truly liked.

In another scene, Paddy's emotional monologue recounting how his journey in cricket lasted for a single match and he could never experience what a winner feels, compels you to think and even get teary-eyed. And his desire to experience what a winner feels, hits you hard. Later, the scene when he takes out his worn-out shoes and dirty jersey beautifully talks to us about unfulfilled goals in life. Balki makes these emotionally charged portions reach the audience's heart with so much ease. Also, I liked how he has layered the emotions with a lot of humour in the commentary box during the match where Amitabh Bachchan is having a banter with the Aussie commentator, and in the stands when Shabana is telling the England coach to sit down and not block her view while everyone is dancing to the Ghoomer step.

At 2 hours 20 minutes, Ghoomer is crisp and rarely appears sluggish. Amid other things, Balki also touches upon gender equality, discrimination in sports, importance of education and superstitious beliefs that often come into play. Vishal Sinha's cinematography deserves a special mention the way he has visualised the cricket scenes. From the aerial shots of the stadium to panning between the stands and the pitch, he captures the essence of Ghoomer magnificently.

Perfect casting

Other than a great story and writing, Ghoomer rides high on its perfect casting and on-point performances. Abhishek is terrific and has put his A game forward. I crave to watch him do such nuanced and eccentric roles, and he does full justice to them. Though he is ruthless and unsympathetic as Paddy, his character has an emotional arc that you can't miss. Also, his drunk scenes would instantly remind you of his father Amitabh Bachchan. The variety senior Bachchan has shown in such characters is unmatched, and junior Bachchan does seem to imbibe some of those traits and you sense traces of those in his performance.

A still from Ghoomer.
A still from Ghoomer.

Delivering an equally brilliant act in a physically demanding role is Saiyami, who comes as close as possible to her character. I don't think any other actor could have portrayed Anina better than Saiyami. The kind of conviction and confidence she shows, and owns her ground in each frame, is just exceptional. While her cricket background does elevate her performance and make the character look more believable, it's worth mentioning that being a right-hander in real life, her extensive training to be a left-handed bowler for the film calls for an applause. Watching her acing her chopping skills in the kitchen and being a pro while cleaning the backyard are to create her practice pitch are a delight. And her bowling shots in slo-mo with her curls flying in the air are like poetry in motion.

Kabir Khan 2.0

There's a sense of comfort and pleasant onscreen camaraderie that Abhishek and Saiyami and their scenes together look powerful. Paddy teaching Anina unconventional techniques and inventing a new style of bowling called Ghoomer while overcoming her shortcomings, will in parts remind you of SRK's Kabir Khan from Chak De! India where he tells his physically exhausted team to go for a run at 5 in the morning.

Among others, Shabana Azmi is heartwarming. Her scenes showing off her knowledge about cricket and being Anina's biggest cheerleader touch your heart, though I felt her character sketch takes a dip in the post-accident scenes and she doesn't contribute much to Anina's prep as a bowler. In a scene where Saiyami tells Shabana about her selection in the team, she responds saying, 'Hum Federer ke followers hain, we don't show emotions'. That's funny and cute. Jeet (Angad Bedi), Anina's boyfriend lends a great support and gives a restrained performance, never going overboard with his emotions. Paddy's trans sister, Rasika (Ivanka Das) is a welcome addition to the cast, and while she is mostly there for comic relief, the message of inclusivity comes through well. Not to miss -- Amitabh Bachchan's cameo is the sweetest ever and in a handful of scenes we see him in, he's a treat to watch. From his poetic dialogues to witty one-liners, he puts a smile on everyone's face. No one knows better than Balki how to utilise Big B's screen presence.

All said and done, one thing I don't understand in most sports film is that why does it always take a failed sportsperson to make another player realise their potential and worth? Why can't someone's success story also act as a similar motivation and encouragement to push someone? Nevertheless, Balki's Ghoomer gives a fairly convincing background story to Abhishek's character that you want to question less and believe more of what you're watching on screen.

Then, there's this one dialogue -- 'Pichle over ke nrityakala ke baad wapas cricket' -- said by one of the commentators referring to Anina's ghoomer style bowling, which bothered me a bit, and I really wish it was avoided in the script. I felt it somewhere contradicted the whole intention behind Ghoomer and disregarded the new bowling style that left everyone awestruck.

Ghoomer will bowl you over with its inspiring story, intriguing screenplay, impressive performances and a smooth blend of entertainment and messaging that fills you with pride and a sense of fulfilment. A pure family entertainer to be enjoyed in theatres, the film doesn't disappoint in any department.

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