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    Cricket and cinema, what is the connection?
Cricket and cinema, what is the connection?
Mr & Mrs Mahi. Source: theguardian.com

Cricket and cinema, what is the connection?

Janhvi Kapoor portrays a medical student hoping to become a professional; Rajkummar Rao plays her spouse, who serves as her coach.

Hindi cinema has so far spent 2024 retreating, its financial setbacks exacerbated by a slew of popular South Indian films. This subtle romance with a cricket theme, timed with Kohli-like precision to coincide with the end of the IPL, might not be enough to defy the dominant narrative in the industry. Instead, it comes on like a fast middle-order batter who smacks a fifty after the heavier hitters have gone for a duck. Nevertheless, director Sharan Sharma finds a strong emotional core in the material while sticking to a sensible plan: provide two hours of captivating narrative featuring excellent performers in top form. Similar to the sport it depicts, the movie industry is trickier to crack than it seems.

Similar to the cunning charmer Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga from 2019, Rajkummar Rao serves as the initial bait and switch. When the story begins, Mahendra, Rao's irascible club player, blows a critical trial match by hogging the last-over strike, it appears to be just a boys' tale. Before realizing on his wedding night that Mahima (Janhvi Kapoor), the obnoxious medical student his irate parents have dumped him onto, knows cricket better than he does and can bat the ball better than he ever could, he has a similarly unremarkable career in sporting goods. What happens next is a tiny monument to creating a partnership as Mahendra switches to coaching and pushes his wife into the spotlight.

The training montages are intercut by Sharma and co-writer Nikhil Mehrotra with appropriately tangled interpersonal drama: between Mahendra and a father (Kumud Mishra) who is just giving him poor guidance, and between Mahima and a husband who is scared of this marital eclipse. While Kapoor comes from the nets as an excellent, committed player, touchingly cautious when faced with both the short ball and the seemingly unattainable desire of a pro sports career, Rao, ever the gamer, battles through some of the more petty characteristics of masculinity. In addition to mastering cricket details, such as the first concussion test seen in the film, Sharma also understands the human interest and poetry of the game. A shot of the Mahis' feet moving in tandem on the training ground echoes the heart-warming collaboration that those recent South Indian hits exchanged. Might a Hindi fightback be on the cards?

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