Rajeev Masand’s Movie Review of Poorna

There’s not a lot to complain about in Rahul Bose’s moving biopic of Poorna Malavath, a 13-year-old Adivasi from a small village in Telangana who became the youngest girl to summit Mount Everest. It’s an inspiring story of overcoming the odds and finding one’s purpose in order to take on – pun intended – a Himalayan challenge. But admirably, Bose, whose second directorial outing this is, scratches beneath the surface to give us a sense of the real achievement behind the headline.
The film’s best moments are the unguarded ones between cousins Poorna (Aditi Inamdar) and Priya (S Mariya), who’re desperate to escape the lives that have been decided for them. Priya, the less fortunate of the two, is married off while she’s still a child. Poorna somehow manages to make her way to a government-run school where, by sheer chance, she happens to attend a rock-climbing camp. It’s a moment that will change her life forever.
The film ticks all the boxes of a standard sports drama; it’s a bonafide underdog story. There are rousing speeches, training montages, and last-minute conflicts. Yet like so many inspirational films about child protagonists, it’s never cloying or patronizing. It helps that Inamdar has incredible earnestness, and never drains the character of her innocence even in her proudest moments. But not everything is perfect. Bose himself, who takes the role of Poorna’s mentor, IAS officer Praveen Kumar, is saddled with bumper sticker dialogue and offers a performance that comes off as a just a wee bit affected. Meanwhile, the naysaying government officials (Dhritiman Chatterjee and Heeba Shah) stick out like cardboard caricatures.
Poorna’s triumphant ascent to the snowy peak is left to the final moments in the film. Bose chooses silences and quiet interludes over booming background music to highlight these bits, and it’s a wise choice. Because while Mount Everest may be the reward, it’s Poorna’s journey overcoming poverty and patriarchy to find her wings that the film is actually about. I’m going with three out of five.

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