SAINA is the legend of a legendary badminton player. Saina Nehwal (Parineeti Chopra) is a young girl who has just moved from Hisar in Haryana to Hyderabad. Her mother, Meghna Malik, was a regional badminton player in Haryana, and she encountered the same situation with her youngest daughter, Saina. She decided to sign up for badminton training. Although the center is about 25 kilometers away from the hotel, Usha made it clear that she wants Saina to learn the sport. At the gymnasium, a coach said that the batch was full, so she could not enroll. But Saina showed her skills, which surprised everyone. Therefore, she has a chance. Under the guidance of her coach and the encouragement of her mother, Saina’s game has improved. Usha persuaded the coach to let her participate in regional competitions, despite the fact that she was too new. However, Senna was surprised in these games and won. Finally, one day, she had the opportunity to play for the Indian national team. Everything went well until one day, just before her first overseas competition, Usha Rani encountered a traffic accident. She was admitted to the hospital due to critical illness. Senna had no choice but to continue practicing. In Prague, she managed to win the game, and soon she learned that Usha Rani was in danger. Later, the mentor asked her to get a better coach in another league. Therefore, Senna joined the Rajan Academy run by the Discipline Officer Sarvadhamaan Rajan (Manav Kaul). Rajan was a famous tennis player. He made many proposals for approval, but he rejected all proposals because he thought it would undermine his ideas about the sport. He made it clear that he hopes his students can do the same, and if they follow his style and coach, they may become top players. Saina follows all the instructions of Rajan to T. She even relied on Rajan to completely change her diet. His method bears fruit, and Saina rises further. But soon there was friction between her and Rajan. What happened next constitutes the rest of the film.
Amole Gupte’s story is inspirational. His screenplay is effective and he tries his best to make her biopic tantalizing for the viewers. Amole Gupte’s dialogues (additional dialogues by Amitosh Nagpal) are simple and conversational. Some of the one-liners of Manav Kaul are sharp.
Amole Gupte’s direction is neat. He keeps the execution simple and focused on the life of Saina Nehwal. He has handled some scenes with panache and it shows his growth as a storyteller. Saina’s relationship with her mother and her association with coach Rajan especially are two tracks that stand out. On the flipside, though Saina’s journey is impressive, cinematically it lacks the thrill.
SAINA starts off showing a recent victory of Saina Nehwal and it’s a very unconventional way to start a film. The flashback portions are engaging and the scene where Usha Rani suggests to Saina to pick up a racquet lying down and start playing to win the confidence of the coaches sets the mood of the film. Another scene that brings a smile is when Saina discusses her diet with Rajan. Two scenes are sure to shock viewers in the first half – first, where Usha Rani slaps Saina for coming second, and Usha Devi’s sudden accident. But overall, the first half is mostly about Saina’s victories. It’s post interval when the conflicts actually take centre stage. Saina’s fallout with the coach is well executed. The climax match stands out as it’s turned into a nail-biting one. The film ends on a lovely note.
Speaking of performances, Parineeti Chopra is in a great form and she pulls off a difficult role with ease. She looks convincing as an expert badminton player but it is her scenes off the court where she really shines. Meghna Malik gets to play a very crucial character. Manav Kaul is natural. Eshan Naqvi (Kashyap) is lovely as Saina’s love interest. Subhrajyoti Barat (Saina’s father, Dr. Harvir Singh Nehwal) is dependable and is too good in the scene wherein he brags after getting innumerable shuttle-cocks for Saina. Ankur Vikal (Coach Jeevan Kumar) comes at a very emotional juncture in the film. He does good later but he hams in the entry scene. Naishaa Kaur Bhatoye (Little Saina) is decent and sails through with hardly any dialogues. The actress playing Saina’s sister gets no scope. Rohan Apte (Rohan) and Sharrman Dey (Damodar) are alright as Saina’s friends.
As for songs, ‘Parinda’ stands out and uplifts the mood. ‘Chal Wahin Chale’ is soulful. ‘Main Hoon Na Tere Saath’ doesn’t register. Amaal Mallik’s background score is well woven.
Piyush Shah’s cinematography is captivating, especially in the badminton scenes. Amit Ray and Subrata Chakraborty’s production design gives the feel of a sports film. Red Chillies VFX’s VFX is praiseworthy. Deepa Bhatia’s editing is smooth and the pacing of the film is appropriate.
On the whole, SAINA gives a great overview of one of the finest sports player of our country. The performance of Parineeti Chopra, the dramatic and emotional moments and the appropriate pace of the film contributes highly to the film’s appeal. Go for it