Shabaash Mithu: Smashing The Patriarchy Has Begun Even If There’s A Long Way To Go…

Shabaash Mithu showcases the everyday struggles of women players even for the basics, from lack of opportunities or fancy paychecks to the inavailability of coaches or even the trademark jerseys.

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

*a few spoilers alert 

This story of some aspiring Indian women cricketers begins on the dismal note that “women are meant to be the nurturers while the men become providers”.

Shabaash Mithu is the story of Indian cricketer Mithali Dorai Raj who, born in a conservative TamBrahm household in Hyderabad was raised to believe that girls should dance, appear pretty, get married, have children, 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 is perhaps wrong but doesn’t voice out anything.

The surprise however here is her father Dorai Raj and her coach Sampath, who feel that nothing is gender dependant, and that everyone has the right to choose their paths no matter what.

It is the struggle to get there that stands out

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 or fancy paychecks to the unavailability of coaches. 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 the rock that Mithu can rely on whenever in doubt.

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The birth of the ‘Women in Blue’

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 forced to urinate behind bushes on the road is satirical, and evidence that women’s safety is a farce and women empowerment nothing but a mirage. The female players urinating in front of a billboard with the glorious ‘Men in Blue’ shines a spotlight on the sexism and misogyny that every nook and  corner of our country carries.

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 is proof that no matter what women achieve, whether at home or in society, it is considered not as good enough compared to the achievements of their male counterparts!

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