So, Balki rocks! Ghoomer is a product of his ‘big idea’ as all his films are. Ghoomer is a story of a cricketer with a disability who is coached by a dejected former cricketer and she gets picked for the Indian national women’s team. Saiyami Kher plays the disabled cricketer Anina Dixit, and Abhishek Bachchan plays her coach Padam Singh Sodhi aka Paddy.
Apart from the cricket match in the climax which is shot at the DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai, Balki doesn’t reveal where exactly in India this story takes place. But it doesn’t really matter because I’m game for the world within the world (For example, Anurag Basu’s Ludo). And filmmakers such as Basu and Balki are ‘party people’ in that endeavor. They take you on a trip and the fun lies in tripping if you know how to do so for those two hours.
Ghoomer has cricket in its backdrop but it is essentially a drama between the feeling of a winner and a loser – both existing in the same person whether it’s Anina or Paddy.
Coaches who are dejected and defeated but who are not done with life are my personal favourites. When I saw the first shot of a drunk Abhishek Bachchan in the Ghoomer trailer, I knew that this one is going to be something special. And Bachchan is fantastic. Recently, he has taken up challenging roles (Breathe: Into The Shadows, Bob Biswas, Dasvi) but the effort was visible in his performances. But as Paddy, he’s effortless.
Watching a drunk Abhishek on screen brought back memories of the iconic scene of his father Amitabh Bachchan from Amar Akbar Anthony – the scene that made me fall in love with the movies.
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I have always found it endearing to watch Saiyami Kher on screen. Whether it was her last release 8AM Metro or Ghoomer, there’s a peculiar blend of rawness, vulnerability, innocence and a bit of lostness in her personality that I find amusing. She is a cricketer so it helps her performance immensely. After Sushant Singh Rajput in M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, it was good to see an actor who didn’t look like he/she was pretending to play cricket. The climax scene where she breaks down crying on the cricket field was overwhelming.
When you have followed someone’s work regularly, you tend to be sure about certain things such as Saiyami will play cricket well or Balki will shoot cricket like a professional cricket match, or a set-up will have a worthy pay-off in the narrative. On the technical fronts – cricket, cinematography, sound design, costume design and make-up, Ghoomer scores well. It maintains its form for the most part in writing as well except for a few things which look like slightly forced design tools to serve the narrative. For example, Saiyami’s character name Anina which when spelled in reverse also reads Anina is used as a tool to explain that she could perform just as good as a righty or a lefty.
After Anina loses her right arm in an accident, there’s a 2-3 seconds scene of selectors saying that they will have to find a replacement for her. That scene didn’t seem necessary because it was obvious that they will find a replacement after the player has lost her arm and can’t bat. Balki often succeeds in plugging his social commentary into dialogue without making it sound preachy.
Also read: Saiyami Kher took note from cricketer Yuvraj Singh to prepare for her role as a cricketer with disability in Ghoomer
The track of Sarika (Ivanka Das), a transgender house help of Paddy is treated with better ‘fluidity’ than the preachy LGBTQIA+ inclusivity stories. There were quite a few ‘money shots’. The confrontations between Saiyami and Abhishek are super entertaining. Who knows how many training montages we have seen in films? But the training montages of Saiyami slogging her a** to be able to ‘qualify’ to even call herself a bowler are innovative. Amit Trivedi’s music ably supports these montages, however, it sometimes sounds like a hangover of some of his previous scores. I particularly liked the Ghoomer title track and the Poornaviram track.
The film also stars Shabana Azmi (always a pleasure to watch) as Anina’s grandmother. There’s also a trademark Amitabh Bachchan cameo in a Balki film. It somehow seems to get lost in the whole chaos of the climax, but Mr. Bachchan gets some good one-liners. There’s also a cameo by Bishen Singh Bedi, the legendary left-arm spinner from India’s famed spin quartet. Bedi’s son Angad Bedi plays Jeet, Saiyami’s sweetheart from childhood. I liked the way their romantic track is narrated. To come to think of it, Ghoomer is Balki’s most emotional film.
Ever since Cheeni Kum, I have often noticed his gaze as a filmmaker to be that of an observer who’s interested in seeing how it all unfolds on screen, a tad detached from the characters. In Ghoomer, he seems to allow himself to be there among his characters and let them just go on that emotional ride.
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A review of a film involving cricket or any sport is incomplete without analogies. So, here it is. Ghoomer is not a perfect film. Just like a cricket match, there were a few moments when I felt where is this going. It is not Balki’s ‘Daddy Hundred’ but it’s a special ton for sure. The film mentions English fast bowler Jimmy Anderson in one scene. Watching Saiyami in Ghoomer was like watching a great spell by Jimmy Anderson. It is filled with wow moments. Watching Abhishek Bachchan was like watching your favourite knocks of Sachin Tendulkar.
I used to be an ardent cricket fan. But now, I have simply lost interest in watching modern-day cricket. The last time I watched a cricket match start-to-end was probably during the 2019 world cup. But watching Ghoomer was a fulfilling experience. And I think there’s no harm in cricketers picking up ‘Ghoomer’ which is a form of delivery by a bowler in the film. And there’s no harm but plenty of fun in watching Ghoomer.
P.S. Talking about the ‘money shots’, my favourite and probably the film’s best shot comes in towards the end of the film where Paddy fumbles. Won’t describe it any further here. I clapped, “What a shot!” Go watch it.