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Ghoomer movie review: Saiyami Kher, Abhishek Bachchan go full tilt in this tale of damaged characters

A terrible accident dashes the dreams of an aspiring cricketer who wants to play for the Indian team. An alcoholic grump barrels into her life, and uses lashes of withering scorn and foul temper to resurrect her. The push-pull relationship between the two forms the crux of R Balki’s ‘Ghoomer’, which ratchets his familiar logic vs magic style to a point where we are constantly forced to pendulum between the two, with mixed results.

The best sight in ‘Ghoomer’ is Anina Dixit’s (Saiyami Kher) upright carriage, not hiding her stump of a right arm which ends just below her elbow. It’s just there, as much a part of her as the full arm was, before the accident. And that is a triumph. But it makes you think: what is the full messy, painful spectrum of feelings that Anina, who used her right hand to whack a ball to the boundary so effortlessly, feels before she came to that acceptance? How does she reach this point so fast?

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But the internal conflict in Anina is not what the writers spend their time on. From a piercing scream that is meant to mirror her pain when it comes to the loss of her ‘phantom limb’, the film switches its attention to the saviour who will rescue the girl from herself. Padam Singh Sodhi aka Paddy (Abhishek Bachchan) staggers about drunkenly, shooting mean little aphorisms at the people closest to him, which includes an adoptive sister in transwoman Rasika (Ivanka Das). Paddy is a stand-in for scores of ‘Whiplash’-style movie coaches who believe in toughening up their wards by being harsh, said harshness predictably the result of past personal hurt: Bachchan goes at it full tilt, reminding you in bits of his illustrious father (appearing in a cameo here) especially when he is delivering a sozzled monologue, but remains a trope.

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Anina’s family — a warm cocoon of a grandmother (Shabana Azmi, in great form), a father (Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, showing an endearing side), and two brothers — forms a contrast to the darkness the coach exudes. She also has a supportive boyfriend in her childhood sweetheart Jeet (Angad Bedi) who is content to play second fiddle, and be around whenever she needs him. But it would have been nice to know a little more about what makes him tick, other than an expository line about having sold off his million dollar company in the US, and returned home. What, exactly, does he do now?

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In keeping its gaze so firmly on the reluctant student-strict teacher duo, the film reduces the other characters to the periphery. Why does the green-juice making grandma, a Roger Federer fan who goes for impassivity rather than showy delight, take a backstep in the healing-cum-training of her beloved granddaughter? What do the two brothers do, other than being the butt of jokes about overeating? Why does the trans person handle Paddy’s bile so sweetly, without once giving it back? How does, in fact, Paddy literally take over Anina’s life, having started on a bad note, and never stepping back from it? And the other players, Anina’s team-mates, are never more than ciphers.

‘Ghoomer’ is not interested in detailing these nuances. What it wants you to do is to rejoice in the twinning-and-winning of both its damaged central characters. characters. Tears do well up when we see Anina’s face, all flushed at her climactic win, despite it feeling stretched and contrived: Kher, who has been a cricketer herself, who knows all about stance, is a stand-out.

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Ghoomer movie cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, Shabana Azmi, Angad Bedi, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Ivanka DasGhoomer movie director: R BalkiGhoomer movie rating: 2.5 stars

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