Ghoomer is a very odd title for a film about a one-handed female bowler who learns the hard way to beat the odds. Like all of R. Balki’s unconventional yet mainstream films , this gem of a film moves at its own volition.
Outwardly Ghoomer looks like yet another rise-and-shine sports drama about a karma-traumatized cricketer and a burnt-out cricket coach who lives with his trans-gender adopted sister in a cottage in the wilderness . The location is a significant detail . It is here, far away from the deafening crowd that the emotionally gutted Anina (her name can be spelt forward and backward: a significant detail considering how determinedly she moves forward after life flings her backward) regains her mojo.
Watching Abhishek’s gruff act as the alcoholic former cricketer on an emotional slow-burn brings the actor closer to his darkest emotions than he has ever been before. Abhishek’s Padam Singh Sodhi, a.k.a Paddy is a nasty unlikeable man . It seems when life served him lemons he decided to replace lime juice with whiskey.
Bachchan’s screen time with the revelatory Saiyami Kher is precious, minute by minute he unravels Anina’s self pity and digs deep into her innermost recesses to excavate a core of selfpreserving strength that we all have. We just don’t know how to get there.
Not that Paddy is a guardian angel or anything. He has his own reasons for taking over Anina’s life, pushing her boundaries until there are none left.
As Anina’s shrewd cricket aficionado grandmother (Shabana Azmi , in a brief but endearing performance) wonders, why would anyone go out on a limb without any ulterior motive for a girl who has lost her limb? Unless he is looking for redemption or perhaps, release from his own guilty past?
Balki and his writers (Rahul Sengupta, Rishi Virmani) are in no mood to exonerate the troubled coach. Abhishek Bachchan plays the badly behaved coach well. When Anina and her devoted boyfriend greet him for Diwali he misbehaves with the boy friend ; when she’s injured and the boyfriend wants to meet her Paddy asks the boyfriend, ‘Are you ice? Then you are not needed’. This could well be Abhishek’s career’s best performance.
As for Saiyami, I can’t imagine anyone else embracing Anina’s inspiring battle to be a one-handed bowler, with such a surge of sincerity. Unusual casting has always been one of the collateral pleasures of a Balki creation. Here we have Ivanka Das as Abhishek’s transgender sister who pronounces ‘f’ as a ‘p’(what the puck!) , she gives her adopted brother tit for tat. And then we have cricket connoisseur Shivendra Singh Dungarpur as Anina’s father, both bringing a freshness and fertility to the proceedings.
Angad Bedi who plays Anina’s bullied boyfriend finds his legendary father Bisan Singh Bedi in the film in not so unexpected ways. And of course Amitabh Bachchan as a humorous cricket commentator: what would Balki’s cinema be without Mr Bachchan?
Ghoomer is a remarkably wry and humbug-free take on redeeming one’s soul after fate deals a low blow. Incredibly liberated from over-sentimentality its last thirty minutes on the cricket field are just delightful.
Or as Paddy would say, magic. Sheer magic.