It is true beyond doubt that a film has to work as cinema within which ever paradigm it’s maker chooses to put it. However, it is also true that there are times when the intent and the purpose become equally significant. And Poorna, it has to be said, is a film with a big heart and the right intent. It is an inspiring biopic on the real life Poorna Malavath, the youngest mountaineer to climb Mount Everest at the age of 13 years and 10 days in 2014.
Set in the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh and now Telangana, Poorna (Aditi Inamdar) and her cousin, Priya (S Mariya), are more friends than cousins who walk their way through the forest to the school, where they are made to sweep the school. Non payment of fees is sighted as the reason but it is a blatant case of caste and gender bias. Priya pursues Poorna to run away and join the free boarding school that is run by the social welfare department. The two are caught as they try and escape and as a result, Priya is immediately married off by her father. Priya leaves for her husband’s house but not before motivating Poorna to run away and join the school. The reality at the school is, however, far from what the government advertises and Poorna runs away from here as well, only to meet IPS officer, Praveen Kumar (Rahul Bose), who has asked to be deputed to the social welfare department. He soon realizes why the children run away from the horrid conditions at the school. In her bid to avoid going home, lest she too is married off, Poorna joins a rock climbing expedition and it is there that she finds her true calling, as she is a natural climber. Praveen Kumar, who is worried about the falling attendance at the government schools, is looking for something to inspire the children and in Poorna, he finds the perfect solution. With his impassioned support along with that of others, Poorna is chosen to climb Everest and the rest as they (always) say is history.
Rahul Bose, the director, takes a rather unobtrusive look at many social issues at the same time, even as he makes Poorna’s journey both sweet and sour. He is not at all condescending or patronizing towards the fault lines of Poorna’s milieu and this is a big plus of the film. He himself is rather stilted in his role but compassionate in his demeanor. A man, who is sensitive to the sociology of the people he is working with, is a rarity in our films. And Bose fills the film with some bitter-sweet moments that are sometimes funny and sometimes subtle, all the while offering a sharp insight into the impoverished lives of millions of Poornas in our country.
Aditi Inamdar as Poorna and S Mariya as Priya are both outstanding on the performance front. Rahul Bose should not have tried his hands at Telugu as it doesn’t quite come off. Heeba Shah desperately tries to do a Suhasini Mulay, which says it all about her act, while Dhritiman Chatterjee looks plain bored. The rest of the casting though is stellar and correct.
Poorna has some inspired writing, especially the twist that finally drives Poorna to climb the summit. What doesn’t work at places is the confusion that Bose as a maker has. He is clearly caught between the realism he believes in and in trying to consciously make a ‘commercial’ film. Consequently, what we get as viewers is a mix of a lethargic Films Division type of pacing with some horribly cheesy dialogue like, “Aap usey slumdog mountaineer banana chahte hain.”
By the end of it all, Poorna is a fairy tale, both in real life and on celluloid, that does succeed in bringing a smile on our faces. So go for it because we need Poornas a lot more than they need us!
Hindi, Drama, Biopic, Color