Director: Akarsh Khurana
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Priyanshu Painyuli, Abhishek Banerjee
Streaming on: ZEE5
In cinema, there are films and there are projects. Akarsh Khurana’s Rashmi Rocket is the latter in which the lead character Rashmi Veera plays Taapsee Pannu. Yes, you read that right. Rashmi is an addition to Pannu’s previous outings, Haseen Dillruba and Thappad where the actor’s persona overshadows the character she is playing. And frankly, apart from the physical transformation, Pannu is totally out of character. Rashmi hails from Gujarat. But Pannu’s speech and mannerisms are flat North Indian. The tanned body and traditional tattoos look merely a decoration. The plight of a person whose identity is challenged by a stupid law never comes out. Which makes it difficult to invest in that character.
The fault equally lies with director Akarsh Khurana who is unable to bring out performances from any of the characters. The only actor who leaves some impression is Abhishek Banerjee as the lawyer Eeshit Mehta. Priyanshu Painyuli as Rashmi’s husband Major Gagan Thakur doesn’t quite look the part. Adding a moustache to make him look like an Indian Army Major is not a convincing move. Among other characters, Manoj Joshi hams as Rashmi’s father. Supriya Pathak Kapur plays Rashmi’s mother Bhanuben. For some reason whichever Gujarati character the veteran actor plays, seems like a version of her famous character on TV, Hansa from Khichdi. It becomes difficult to take her seriously after that.
The real damage is done by the writers Aniruddha Guha and Kanika Dhillon (with additional writing by Akarsh Khurana and Lisha Bajaj) who in spite of having such serious issue of gender testing among female athletes to their disposal, write a sloppy screenplay and tacky dialogue. The contrived narrative to serve female empowerment is the structural flaw because of which Rashmi Rocket never takes off. Everything is fed to you in a scattered manner. There are the obvious sports training and winning montages which don’t have anything new to offer. Such is the case with most sports biopics or sports-based films, as there are too many of those.
The other sprinters competing with Rashmi appear as if they’re told to run slower than Rashmi. Certainly reminded me of the brilliant sprinting sequences in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Farhan Akhtar looked every bit an athlete training and running with everything he has got. The actor-director duo themselves couldn’t quite achieve that level in Toofaan which released earlier this year.
What surprised me was the banner which produced this film, Ronnie Screwvala’s RSVP – usually good at quality control. Rashmi Rocket can’t even walk away with the excuse that it was shot during the ongoing pandemic because the root cause here is weak writing.