Directed by Akarsh Khurana and starring crowd favourite names like Taapsee Pannu, Priyanshu Painyuli, Supriya Pathak, Supriya Pilgaonkar, Mantra and Abhishek Banerjee, Rashmi Rocket tells a story that Bollywood hasn’t touched before. A story of gender testing, consent and nepotism in women sports.
Rashmi, played by Taapsee is a woman from Kutch village, who begins her journey as an athlete after being convinced to run by her love interest, Captain Gagan Thakur aka Priyanshu.
And for the first half the film seems fairly decent, you watch a woman work hard to become an Asian Games gold medalist. She runs from her problems but embraces them, she is also shown to be a feminist in her village, which is heavily influenced by her mother, played by Supriya. They fight for the rights of the women in the village and run a business, not much of which is actually delved into. We don’t know the story of her strong mother, but are expected to believe she is brave nonetheless.
But that is just one of the places that the film falters at. It gives us a montage of Rashmi’s journey, because she is gifted, she doesn’t struggle like others probably would after making it to the national academy. But what stands out is the fact that apart from Rashmi, all the other athletes seem like props. They have no character arcs and you probably don’t even remember their names. They don’t seem to matter, because only Rashmi does.
But that doesn’t even begin to describe how dramatic the film gets in the second half with a courtroom drama, that lasts longer that her entire journey as an athlete. The second half begins when after winning a gold, Rashmi is subjected to a gender test, without her consent. Then arrested and harassed by male officers because she’s a ‘launda’ and ‘mard’.
While the humiliation that Rashmi goes through is portrayed quite well, as the film takes inspiration from many real life events of female athletes. It does however, put her struggle into a box. They talk about her having high testosterone levels, but the reality of a woman with high testosterone is never relayed. Where are the health issues she would face? Instead, we get the narrative of a ‘woman’ who is living her life, getting married, pregnant and all this while, enjoying flawless skin.
While everything Rashmi has done – to be a successful runner, gets stuck together into a convenient montage, the makers focus on the court room aspect of the film a bit too much. Supriya Pilgaonkar, who plays the judge even calls out Rashmi’s lawyer, played by Abhishek Banerjee, for being too dramatic. Well, at least the film is self aware.
While a lot falters in this film, a bunch of it sticks too. The movie deserves credit for taking up a topic like gender tests, and the insensitive manner in which they are done, and portrayed by the press. And though the narrative isn’t as deep and intuitive as we would have liked, it still does a decent job at getting the point across in the guise of mainstream cinema. It has the Bollywood masala that makes for a good watch, with performances that are definitely impressive.