Shabaash Mithu by director Shrijit Mukherjee isn’t a chest-thumping victory of a sport but another conspicuously harsh reality of women and their rights.

A story of some aspiring Indian women cricketers begins on a dominant note that women are meant to be the nurturers while the men become providers always. The film is the story of Indian cricketer Mithali Dorai Raj who being in a conservative Tamil Brahmin household in Hyderabad was bred into believing that girls should dance, appear pretty, get married, procreate and take care of the family. Little Mithu is torn between her hidden aspirations (which are soon fanned by her childhood friend and the extremely feisty, Noorie) and the need to be right in front of her family. Her grandmother is seen to support her brother while constantly admonishing her. Mithu’s mother feels that everything around her is perhaps wrong but doesn’t voice out. The surprise however here is her father Dorai Raj and her coach Sampath who feel that nothing is gender centric and that everyone has the right to choose their paths no matter what.

Shabaash Mithu stands out not because the women bring home the World Cup but because they win everyday struggles which for the opposite gender might be issues that are insignificant: from lack of opportunities, fancy paychecks, unavailability of coaches to even having a mere jersey of their own is a struggle for these women who are out there to fight the world and survive too!

The film also highlights how women empower one another even when life constantly throws curve balls at them. Noorie fails to talk to her own father about her passion for cricket but that does not stop her from inspiring Mithu to follow her dreams. She is a rock that Mithu can rely on whenever in doubt.

Shabaash Mithu also touches upon issues like privilege and bullying without being preachy. Mithali Raj apparently has to fight lesser odds than her team members who resort to bullying to camouflage their pain and low self-esteem. However, Mithu stands for all and christens them “Women in blue” as opposed to the perennially privileged and celebrated “Men in blue”.

The heart-wrenching scene where four National level players are bound to urinate behind bushes on the road is satirical and evident as to how women’s safety is a farce and women’s empowerment nothing but a mirage. The female players urinating in front of a billboard with the glorious “Men in blue” speaks a lot about sexism and misogyny that every nook and corner of our country breathes into.

In the end the “Women in blue” might not have won the World Cup but they do win millions of hearts when upon their return to India they are hailed by a huge team of spectators. However the fact that Mithu’s own brother and grandmother fail to show their happiness and acceptance till the end credits is a proof that no matter what women achieve whether at home or in the society it’s quite less distinguishable as compared to their male counterparts.

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