"Haar jeet toh Parinaam he, Koshish Hamaara kaam he." Just like this dialogue, the makers of Taapsee Pannu's Rashmi Rocket put their best foot forward to question the definition of 'conventional feminity' through its protagonist who finds her identity being questioned due to an archaic practice. Do they succeed? Yes! Most importantly, the film makes you hit the pause button and think. Mind you like our heroine, it also suffers setbacks at a few places. But by the time the end credits roll, the team wins you over with its noble intentions.
Available On: Zee5
What's Yay: Performances, Concept
What's Nay: The wobbly beginning before the film dives into the core subject
October 5, 2004. Two male cops enter a girls' hostel and forcibly drag Rashmi (Taapsee Pannu) out of her room to arrest her. Before that, one of them even mocks her and remarks, "Con artist toh tu khud hai, awaaz pan muli saarkha aahe bagh."
Through a series of flashback events, we are introduced to Rashmi's childhood in Bhuj and her progressive upbringing. Known as 'Rocket' in her hometown for her lightning-speed sprint, our 'ghani cool chokri' works as a tourist guide. She's a free-spirited girl who doesn't mind doing 'garba' with her sneakers on and indulging in casual flirting with the handsome army guy Gagan (Priyanshu Painyuli) who catches her attention right from their first meet.
Gagan discovers Rashmi's talent when she sprints her way to rescue his colleague's life and encourages her to become an athlete. Soon, Bhuj's Rashmi Veera becomes the nation's rising star 'Rashmi Rocket'.
However, her astonishing win at the Asian Games 2004 leaves a few disgruntled and before Rashmi can bask in the glory, she finds herself exploited in the name of an age-old sports practice- gender testing. Stripped of her prestige and identity, Rashmi decides to sprint her way to justice with the help of her now hubby Gagan and a lawyer Ishith (Abhishek Banerjee).
First things first, director Akarsh Khurana and his team deserve a pat on their back for ditching the done-to-death 'underdog' narrative for a sports-themed film. Instead, they dare to broach a sensitive subject which has been a hot debate since a long time. Besides raising pertinent questions around the controversial 'gender testing' and hyperandrogenism, the film also throws light on the society's perception towards female athletes and the politics in the sports universe.
Akarsh along with writers Aniruddha Guha, Kanika Dhillon and Leesha Bajaj present a thought-provoking piece of art and address the elephant in the room. Rashmi Rocket fares better as a film dealing with humane aspects than a sports film. The Taapsee-starrer might fleetingly remind you of real-life Indian sprinter Dutee Chand's case which questioned the validity of gender testing.
On the flipside, the film suffers from a lazy writing at the beginning where Aniruddha and team establish Rashmi's early days before her fame. The 'Ghani Chori' song also seems misplaced. But once the writers & co. reach the main crux of the plot, it's a flying start both for Taapsee and the audience.
We have often seen male actors shedding off extra pounds and gaining muscle for an athlete's body while doing sports films. Taapsee Pannu pulling off a similar feat for Rashmi Rocket comes as a refreshing change in Bollywood where heroines are expected to look all dainty and easy on the eyes. From a celebrated athlete to a woman who fights for justice when her gender is openly put under scrutiny due to a humiliating practice, the actress succeeds in touching all the right chords during this transition.
Rashmi Rocket is also a resounding slap to all trolls who never shy away from raising eyebrows and passing nasty comments when a woman doesn't fit into their description of feminine standards.
Just like his onscreen role of a supportive boyfriend-turned-husband, Priyanshu Painyuli matches steps with Taapsee and helps her in reaching the finish line when it comes to delivering an effective film. Abhishek Banerjee as the lawyer, keeps his act low-key and it's this moving away from the troupe which works in his favour. Supriya Pathak's equation with Taapsee Pannu gives you warm vibes.
The rest of the cast including Varun Badola, Mantra, Akash Khurana, Shweta Tripathi and others are effective in their respective roles.
Neha Parti Matiyani's lens work magic when it comes to the white dunes and the artistic beauty of Bhuj. She creates some good tensed and thrilling moments with her over-the-top and close shots of Taapsee when the actress hits the ground. Ajay Sharma and Shweta Venkat's editing works fine.
Rashmi Rocket has nothing new to offer when it comes to the music department. 'Ghani Cool Chori' is visually appealing but the lyrics lack a recall value. 'Zidd' fails short of being a memorable inspirational number. The other two songs 'Rann Ma Kutchh' and 'Zindagi Tere Naam' too, fail to impress.
When Bhanuben (Supriya Pathak) casually complains to her husband how their daughter Rashmi doesn't listen to her, the latter tells her, "Arey, woh khud ki sunti hai na woh sabse badi baat hai." Rashmi Rocket is not just a tribute to women athletes who defy all odds to achieve their dreams, but also to every woman out there who dares to listen to her own voice, unafraid of breaking stereotypes.
We give 3.5 stars out of 5 for Taapsee Pannu-starrer Rashmi Rocket.