Srijit Mukherji’s Bollywood debut had faced bitter criticisms, but he held high hopes for “Shabaash Mithu.” Well, there are reasons to be proud of being able to tell a story regarding such a pivotal period in Indian women’s cricket. But, somehow, his overenthusiasm became the root cause of all the problems. It is a film the way the audience expects it to be: the same old sports drama, the hidden message, and the struggle to become a champion. In the first half, Srijit Mukherji tried hard to tell the story of Mithali Raj and her journey, but the essence faded in the second half. Even the ending was too rushed, making the movie ordinary. “Shabaash Mithu” talks about some of the crucial things that the Women’s Cricket Team used to face. However, they face the problems even today, but now the criticism comes from expectations. The same goes for Srijit Mukherji in this regard.
What Happens In ‘Shabaash Mithu’ Film?
The film starts with a girl named Noorie trying to blend in with the boys in her neighborhood. She likes to bowl, so she plays cricket with the other boys. This worries her mother, and she brings her to a dance teacher. There she meets Mithali, and they become best friends. Although Noorie fails to become a dancer, in between, Mithali starts playing cricket. One day, some boys challenged Mithali but could not knock her bail off. Local coach Sampath Kumar (Vijay Raaz) watched that and talked to her parents about how natural she is. Mithali’s brother Mithun also plays cricket, but since Sampath Kumar picked Mithali, the brother-sister relationship started to fade away.
Anyway, from that time, Mithali’s journey as a cricketer begins, and she manages to improve her stunts with the help of Sampath Kumar. Soon, she was selected for the WCB (Women’s Cricket Board), and there she faced a lot of trouble as a newcomer. The players, as well as the captain, developed a dislike for Mithali. Later, Mithali remembers what Sampath Kumar once told her. Mithali came from a family where she had nothing to complain about, but the other cricketers had struggled so much. So, to win against them, she must fight with her techniques and strong mindset. Soon after, Mithali gets selected for the Indian squad and becomes the youngest player ever to represent India. After scoring a couple of centuries and some match winning performances, she became the Indian women’s team captain.
Before becoming the captain, Mithali witnessed the difference between the men’s and women’s teams. She wants that to change as she believes they, too, deserve the same number of opportunities. As the captain of the Indian team, she first helped the team merge with CAI and then questioned the CAI about their reluctance towards them. Mithali Raj thought about leaving cricket once and for all. Still, her friend Noorie and coach Sukumari Marwah (who once was a captain and hated Mithali) convinced her to continue playing for India. After that, Mithali Raj continued her journey and helped Team India reach the World Cup final despite all the impossibilities. They could not lift the trophy, but the whole country welcomed them warmly on their return. The women in blue were finally recognised and captain Mithali Raj led them from the front.
‘Shabaash Mithu’ Ending Explained: Why Did Mithali Raj Almost Leave Women’s Cricket?
Since Mithali Raj started playing for India, she witnessed various events where men’s cricket had been prioritized much more than women’s cricket. They did not have many games to practice; there were no sponsors for them. On the other hand, they had to wait in line at the airports while the men’s team used to walk past them without any worry. The board had consistently promoted the men’s team since 1932, 20 years before their first win. Mithali told the CAI that they only asked for five years of support. Even so, CAI sent men’s jerseys to the women’s team and then insulted them when they asked a few questions. One of the chief board members called an older man and asked him if he could name at least one woman cricketer. He’s been a fan of the Indian cricket team for 30 years, but he couldn’t name a single female cricketer. How so?
As a person who grew up watching Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar, it is pretty obnoxious for someone to question him about women’s cricket. The older man had no clue about women’s cricket because the authorities never promoted it much. They encouraged the men’s team everywhere but never even bothered to acquire a sponsor for the women’s team. These struggles always made a woman’s life in cricket much more difficult. They did not even have a male coach until recently, and without enough technical guidance. When Mithali demanded more matches and sufficient resources, she was insulted. Her demands were based on the fundamental right to feel proud when you are representing your nation. Whatever gender they may be, they are playing for India, and it is undeniable that they deserve to be respected the same as anyone in this regard. So, Mithali thought the future of women’s cricket was going nowhere, making her feel distraught. So, on her return, she told her mother that her brother should have been playing cricket instead of her.
After deciding to play for India, no matter what, all they needed to do was be unforgettable. Before the first match, Mithali gathers everyone and delivers a captain’s speech to motivate her teammates. She said that win or lose won’t matter much if they are forgotten after the day’s performance. She admitted that playing in the World Cup and beating top teams is a tough journey, but she also recalled the struggles they all put together to be there. She reminded Kavita of how she used to play as a boy until she turned 16. Jhorna used to travel 80 kilometers so that she could practice her bowling. Veda spent six hours fishing in the sea every day just to bowl 20 overs. They all traveled impossible miles to be in the World Cup. Now was their only chance to make their journey remarkable. The Indian Women’s team put together one of the finest performances ever in the history of the Women’s World Cup in 2017. This inspired the whole nation. Whenever India beats Pakistan in any sport, we don’t care much about gender. India finally cheered for the women in blue, and on their arrival at the airport, however trophyless, they embraced them with warmth. Mithali Raj demanded respect, and she led her team to achieve that.
The audience always feels intrigued while watching a sports drama. Srijit Mukherji kept an excellent vibe throughout the film. But, somehow, he mainly focused on the rise of the women’s national team. This is a dynamic approach indeed, but some might argue that it was not a biopic they expected to be told. However, Mithali Raj became such a name in women’s cricket that whenever you depict a story around her, it will always talk about the rise of the women in blue. The camera work has been pretty ordinary; even the music has not been remarkable. What directors like Neeraj Pandey have been able to do successfully is add a sense of thrill to the matches or the moments that escalate the emotions in the audience. Srijit Mukherji was severely lacking in that department. Whatever his approach may be, in a sports drama, you expect to be thrilled at times. In that regard, “Shabaash Mithu” failed completely.
It was not a unique sports film, but it talked about many struggles. The execution was poor, and the screenplay was not up to the mark. Taapsee Pannu’s performance was decent, if not remarkable. There was nothing much to do for her except for a poorly constructed poetry scene. Srijit Mukherjee should stop including poetry in every film he makes. He even tried to introduce the characters with the backdrop of their everyday lives in a sequence. Some might take pleasure in that, but it seems a bit overdramatic. The climax is very rushed, and that puts the final nail in the coffin. We know that the “shabaash” perfectly works for “Mithu,” but it doesn’t go with Srijit Mukherji.
“Shabaash Mithu” is a sports drama streaming on Netflix with subtitles.