This one races ahead with powerful performances

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STORY: Inspired by true events, Rashmi Rocket is the story of a fiery sprinter, whose rise to the top is marred by a covert gender test. Will she resign to fate or fight the prejudice and conspiracy against her for the larger good of the women athletes of India?

REVIEW: Growing up in a small town of Kutch Bhuj, Rashmi (Taapsee Pannu) is a firebrand from the word go. She gets into fights with the boys and is a rebellion at heart. Her dark skin and boyish mannerisms instantly set her apart from the other girls of her age, but beyond all of that the one thing that makes her special, is her ability to sprint like a cheetah. Egged by family members, especially her equally headstrong mother Bhanu Ben (Supriya Pathak), Rashmi goes on to represent India in the Asian Games. All is well, until a gender test abruptly ends her career, breaking her spirit and morale, questioning her very identity as a woman.

Unlike other sports dramas, ‘Rashmi Rocket’ isn’t just about that one make or break game in the climax. But still, Nanda Periyasamy’s riveting story, Aniruddha Guha’s sharp screenplay and Akarsh Khurana’s able direction, holds your attention right from the beginning until the end, where the race for justice is played out in a court. ‘Rashmi Rocket’ is more of a courtroom drama with an intensely important and relevant topic up for debate and one that propels a dialogue. Yet, the film’s execution never becomes preachy or overtly patriotic. It does become convenient at times and makes you wonder if the women athletes, who have actually faced prejudice and identity crisis because of their genetic makeup are privileged like the protagonist here. Because in reality, their lives are much darker. Of course, that is an ideal scenario and the film makes a case for how such women deserve a normal course of life and a chance to be heard. Especially, after a mere test not only ends their career but also makes them a subject of mockery and discrimination.

Taapsee Pannu once again proves her mettle, embodying Rashmi’s persona, physically and mentally. Her effort to celebrate Rashmi’s victory and endure her pain, is as real as it gets and the actress doesn’t miss the beat when it comes to making us root for her character. Her makeup could have been more believable rather than just showing her a few shades darker.

There are a host of character actors each one performing their role to perfection. Priyanshu Painyuli is adorable as the supportive husband, who stands by the love of his life when the odds are firmly against her. Abhishek Banerjee does well as Rashmi’s slightly goofy yet determined advocate. Supriya Pilgaonkar is believable as the judge and Mantra is well-cast as the stringent coach of Rashmi’s team.

Amit Trivedi’s music and Kausar Munir lyrics go seamlessly from inspiring to emotional, but the background score in the courtroom scenes sound slightly out of place. The film’s scale, though not very grand, does justice to the demands of the screenplay. The all-important racetrack scenes depicting a stadium full of cheering crowds in long shots, come alive with excitement.

With powerful performances ‘Rashmi Rocket’ fires on all cylinders and stays the course of informing, entertaining and educating its audience about an archaic practice that should be left far behind in the race against inequality and bias.

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