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“Main bhaag nahin sakta, isliye sirf lad sakta hu”, and what an inspiring fight Srikanth Bolla from a village in Andhra Pradesh has put up. Srikanth, directed by Tushar Hiranandani and starring Rajkummar Rao, brings the real-life visually impaired entrepreneur’s story to the big screen with significant impact, even though the story is told through very broad brush strokes.

Srikanth is born visually impaired to farmer parents in a small village in Andhra Pradesh. A brilliant student, he is bullied for being blind till he moves to a school for the visually impaired in Hyderabad. A go-getter from childhood, a young Srikanth learns to soar with the help of his teacher Devika (Jyotika). Kicked out of school for his honesty, an older Srikanth (Rao) is given shelter by Devika who not only helps him study for his Class X boards but also helps fight a court case against the education board which didn’t allow visually impaired children to study science, so that he could study the subject in Class XII.

When he faces the same hurdle when applying for colleges, he chooses to go to Massachusetts Institute of Technology on scholarship, where he is the first international visually impaired student. The film follows his decision to come back to India where he starts Bollant Industries with his partner Ravi (Sharad Kelkar), which makes eco-friendly products and employs people with disabilities and those who are unskilled.

When Rao is in a film, you can expect him to slip into the character and he doesn’t disappoint. He performs the role of Srikanth with skill and authenticity, from mannerisms to body language to dialogue delivery. He imbibes Srikanth with a joie de vivre that is infectious. Jyotika as Srikanth’s mentor Devika brings grace, gravity and a dignified presence to the film. Also worth mentioning is Kelkar’s performance as Ravi, Srikanth’s first investor, partner and friend. Alaya F as Srikanth’s love interest Swathi made for an interesting character but is underused in the very one-dimensional and short role.

While the film does paint Srikanth as a hero, it doesn’t fall into the trap of portraying a visually impaired person as good and kind all the time. We see Srikanth being vengeful, unkind, rude and hurtful when people treating him like something special goes to his head. It shows he is just as human as the rest of us. Focusing a little more on his human side would have added some depth to the story, which sometimes feels oversimplified. The first half especially, though hugely inspiring, sees Srikanth overcome one hurdle after another — the court case against the board of education, the first flight to the US — all successfully and all with a slight smile on his face.

The second half does show some disappointments — a businessman telling him to first manage himself properly when he stumbles, or when some people to whom he is giving a presentation walk out in the middle without telling him — but it never dwells on the impact it has on him, making the film a little lopsided. That doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a hugely inspiring film about a man who might not have eyesight but has a great vision. It is a story that deserves to be told and who better than Rao to do it?


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