ZEE5’s ‘Rashmi Rocket’ is a Hindi-language film that revolves around a small-town sprinter named Rashmi Vira, who is forced to undergo a sex verification test at the peak of her athletic career. Directed by Akarsh Khurana, the film explores the problematic nature of gender testing in sports and the systems that fail to protect athletes subjected to the same. Starring Taapsee Pannu, Supriya Pathak, Priyanshu Painyuli, and Abhishek Banerjee, ‘Rashmi Rocket’ traverses the highs and lows of Indian athletics as experienced by many of its women.
‘Rashmi Rocket’ champions the cause of female athletes by challenging social norms and injustices. Since popular Bollywood biopics on sprinters, such as ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ and ‘Paan Singh Tomar,’ are rooted in the lives of real athletes, it’s but natural to wonder whether ‘Rashmi Rocket’ also borrows from real-life characters and events. Let’s go ahead and find out if ‘Rashmi Rocket’ is based on a true story.
Is Rashmi Rocket Based on a True Story?
‘Rashmi Rocket’ is partly based on a true story. Or, to be precise, on true stories. The film explores how hyperandrogenism is often used as a reason to ban female athletes, forcing them to prove their identity as women. In the world of sports, there has been a long-standing debate around women who have higher than usual testosterone (male sex hormone) levels and whether they possess an unfair advantage over their peers and competitors. Khurana told PTI that ‘Rashmi Rocket’ is not based on the life of one person but is inspired by the stories of many Indian and international female athletes.
“Nanda Periyasamy, a South Indian filmmaker, wrote a fictionalized account of these things [gender testing in sports] based on what had happened in a few villages in Tamil Nadu. The story came to me, and I did more research on the topic,” said Khurana, explaining how he first came across the idea for the film. Aniruddha Guha then wrote the principal screenplay after rigorous research.
“Besides the fact that some people in real life have undergone this practice [gender testing], this [the movie] is a completely fictionalized version of events. It’s a completely different story… The circumstances of the gender test and events after the test are completely created, and it is not like anyone’s life,” Khurana elucidated. The film brings to mind the tragic stories of XXX Summer Universiade gold medalist Dutee Chand and Olympic champion Mokgadi Caster Semenya — both faced bans due to their hyperandrogenism.
‘Rashmi Rocket’ highlights the subtleties of sexism in sports and society whilst handling the larger story arc of gender testing. The movie allows uncomfortable truths to surface by questioning society’s idea of a woman and documenting the emotional and physical toll of the ordeals of gender testing and discrimination. Its characters and events may be fictional but draw their essence from a real-life problem.
The realism of ‘Rashmi Rocket’ stems not only from its subject matter but also from its phenomenal representation of athletes, with Pannu (Rashmi) having undergone rigorous physical training to play the part. Rashmi’s hardworking, bold, and gritty small-town persona hits home, as many Indian sportspersons hail from towns and villages rather than big cities. Additionally, the legal battle that Rashmi enters will help viewers become aware of the injustices of gender testing.
Pannu pointed out how, despite her love for sports, she too had not been aware of gender testing like most of the population. “I did a Google search and found out this [gender testing] really happens. So many female athletes get banned and also end up damaging their life in so many ways. There’s so much social shaming that happens. I realized it’s a story that hasn’t been told in mainstream and I knew it’ll hit hard,” she said.
Movies like ‘Dangal,’ ‘Chak De! India,’ and ‘Mary Kom’ explore the trials and tribulations of women in sports, bringing to the masses the rampant sexism and harassment female athletes face on a day-to-day basis. ‘Rashmi Rocket’ fits neatly into the league of such movies, with its entertaining format and desire to send out a social message.
However, the film taps into a very real and very disturbing problem that has traumatized and sidelined talented female athletes for a long time. The movie’s mix of fact and fiction works to spread awareness about gender testing and challenge stereotypes regarding women athletes that society so tightly holds onto. Thus, ‘Rashmi Rocket’ is a fictionalized account of the real-life experiences of several people.
Read More: Where to Stream Rashmi Rocket Online