Bollywood: 'Saina' director Amole Gupte wants girls to be inspired
His biopic on badminton champ Saina Nehwal is a motivational film for every family that has daughters, he says.
Portraying a sports hero on the big screen is no mean feat. But what is equally if not more challenging is helming a biopic in such a manner that it engages viewers as well as entertains them. Director Amole Gupte, known for thought-provoking films like Hawaa Hawaai, Taare Zameen Par and Stanley Ka Dabba, is thrilled that his pet project Saina, which showcases the life of Indian badminton champion Saina Nehwal, is finally seeing the light of day with a cinematic release.
It’s been a long and bumpy road for Saina. In 2017, Bollywood star Shraddha Kapoor announced that she would play the titular role but eventually dropped out of the film in 2018. Theories abounded at the time as to the reason but in the end, Shraddha’s loss was Parineeti Chopra’s gain and the latter was signed on and began training to play the ace shuttler.
Covid played spoilsport for the film as well, pushing its release from September 2020 to 2021. Finally Saina is releasing this weekend in the UAE and its cast and crew is no doubt heaving a sigh of relief. We caught up with director Amole Gupte who spoke about the challenges of bringing Saina’s story to the silver screen.
“The biggest challenge I faced in these last five years in the making of the Saina script and film is that I hoped and hoped that it would satisfy the subject, that is Saina Nehwal. Her parents have seen the film and the challenge has been met because they loved the film. They were overwhelmed by it. So I’m so thankful that what I set off for I managed to deliver. A baby, because the film is about their (Dr Harvir Singh Nehwal and Usha Nehwal, Saina’s parents) baby.”
What was it about Saina’s story that made him want to take on this film?
“Why did I make Saina’s story, after Stanley Ka Dabba, Hawaa Hawaai and Taare Zameen Par? Well, in 2015 when Saina became the World Number One female badminton player, it was a phenomenon which was unmatched. And it was truly inspirational on Saina’s part to create an environment for the girl child to progress in my nation. I wanted it (the story) to be told to every family in India - what you can do with your girl child.”
Parineeti Chopra, known for films like Ishaqzaade, Shuddh Desi Romance and Kesari, is taking on her first ever sports biopic. Amole praised the actress’ dedication towards her craft and the role of Saina.
“Parineeti’s strength as an actor is that she is extremely alert and a very clever actor, and a clever actor has the ability to do the role with authenticity so the audience feels that they are watching the principal subject, in this case Saina Nehwal. And Parineeti rose up to that in terms of her talent and the way she puts her talent to use.”
Saina was about to be shelved a couple of times and faced many challenges like the replacement of the lead actress. Is he glad it's all come together now and that the film is being released on the big screen despite the Covid pandemic?
“It’s been a long wait for me in order to bring this baby out along with my better half Deepa Bhatia (his wife is a film editor who has worked on Saina as well). We would say this is our child as much as Partho (Gupte, who starred in Stanley Ka Dabba and Hawaa Hawaai) is our son. We are glad that it’s all come together now and the film is releasing on the big screen, unfortunately in Covid times. But better today than tomorrow which is why I am very bullish about it, and so is Deepa.”
Stanley Ka Dabba, Hawaa Hawaai and Taare Zameen Par were all thought-provoking films that revolved around children and conveyed a message. Amole says that films “are not just entertainment” for him and hopes Saina strikes a chord among viewers. “Films mean much more than mere presentation of products in the market. The message is as important as the content which is meant to be riveting for audiences. In the case of Saina, it’s a film about a girl child from a middle class home turning into a world number one badminton player. What more is there to say except that it’s a motivational film for every family who nurses dreams for their daughters. It will motivate parents to translate into winds under their children’s wings and let their children fly high the way Saina does.”