Saina Nehwal biopic set to chronicle Indian star's incredible career

The Bollywood movie directed by Amole Gupte and featuring top actress Parineeti Chopra captures the highs and lows of Olympic medallist Saina Nehwal.
By Utathya Nag

Indian badminton player Saina Nehwal’s biopic, titled Saina, is just around the corner.

The Parineeti Chopra starred Bollywood movie, celebrating the Indian badminton star’s journey, completed shooting in 2020. The Saina Nehwal biopic was released on March 26, 2021.

While Indian sports fans and movie buffs patiently wait for the announcement of the official release date, here’s everything you need to know about the film.

Saina Nehwal biopic – Cast and known actors

The entire list of the cast is still unknown, but a few actors and major stakeholders have been confirmed over the course of the last few years.

Parineeti Chopra as Saina Nehwal

Playing Saina Nehwal in the biopic will be actor Parineeti Chopra of Ladies vs Ricky Bahl fame.

While Deepika Padukone was being touted as a possibility in early days, actor Shraddha Kapoor was finalised to play Saina’s lead role in 2016.

The actor even started shooting for the film once it went on the floor in September 2018.

However, with Shraddha Kapoor replacing Katrina Kaif in Street Dancer 3D, availability issues prompted her to quit the project.

She was replaced by Parineeti Chopra, sister of Priyanka Chopra, who incidentally played the lead role in Mary Kom’s eponymous biopic.

Parineeti Chopra suffered an injury while training for the film but recovered to complete shooting. She even dropped out of Ajay Devgn’s Bhuj: The Pride of India to dedicate the required time to the project.

“I've never been more motivated in my life. With this new phase in my career and life, this project fits like a glove,” Parineeti said during a media interaction.

Saina Nehwal has spent time with both Shraddha and Parineeti to train them for the badminton aspects of the film.

Manav Kaul as Pullela Gopichand

Filmfare award-winning actor Manav Kaul will be reprising the role of ace badminton player Pullela Gopichand, who coached Saina Nehwal throughout the majority of her career.

Shubhrajyoti Barat as Harvir Singh Nehwal – Saina Nehwal’s father

Article 15 actor Shubhrajyoti Barat will be seen playing Saina Nehwal’s father, Harvir Singh Nehwal in the film.

Veteran actor Paresh Rawal was rumoured to have taken up the role earlier.

Actors who will be playing Parupalli Kashyap – Indian badminton player and Saina Nehwal’s husband, Usha Nehwal – the Indian women’s badminton player’s mother -- and other key characters in the biopic haven’t been revealed yet.

Director and producer of Saina Nehwal biopic

Saina has been directed by veteran Bollywood director Amole Gupte. The award-winning actor-screenwriter-director is best known for his work as creative director and screenwriter in Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par.

Gupte has also helmed highly-acclaimed Bollywood movies like Stanley Ka Dabba and Hawaa Hawaai.

In the latter, Gupte tackled certain sporting elements in what was a dramatised take of an aspiring skater’s struggles to overcome poverty and become a champion.

“I am happy that he’s directing my biopic. He knows how to handle such stories and he knows everything about my life very well,” Saina Nehwal said in an interview.

The movie is being produced by Bhushan Kumar under the banner of T-Series – currently one of the biggest production houses in Bollywood.

Saina – celebration of an incredible life and achievements

Saina will chronicle the Hyderabadi dynamo’s journey into the sport and feature some of her most notable achievements.

“It’s a story of a tigress beti (daughter) who has set fire to the badminton court with her prowess like no one else before. The nation needs to know the story of this icon for the young and the old for a long time to come,” Amole Gupte said in an interview.

The production team has gone to great lengths to meticulously capture the notable bookmarks of Saina’s career, even recreating 12 different courts to emulate various international venues.

“Each court is in a different country representing a different match right from the Czech Republic to Manila.

“We are shooting each (notable) match for a couple of days and then working overnight to turn the look around for the next one,” Amole Gupte has said. 

Saina Nehwal’s bronze medal win at the London 2012 Olympics is set to be one of the centre-pieces of the upcoming biopic.

“I think it will be an emotional moment for me to see my life unfurl on the big screen,” Saina Nehwal had commented about the film.

The plan for Saina was set into motion in December 2015, a few months after Saina Nehwal became the first-ever Indian woman to be ranked No. 1 in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Rankings.

Director Amole Gupte reportedly visited Saina Nehwal and her family at their Hyderabad residence in person and discussed the Indian badminton star’s career and the movie over some aloo parathas (potato quesadillas).

Despite several snags and delays, particularly with Shraddha Kapoor leaving the project, final shooting for the movie finally began in October 2019 and concluded in February 2020.

Following a rich legacy of sports biopics

Saina will follow a rich legacy of highly-successful sports biopics from recent years, namely Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, Aamir Khan’s Dangal, Farhan Akhtar’s Bhaag Milkha Bhag, Irrfan Khan’s Paan Singh Tomar and Priyanka Chopra’s Mary Kom.

Biopics on Olympic medallist Karnam Malleswari and India’s track and field queen PT Usha are also in the pipeline.

Popular Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma, too, has reportedly signed on to play former Indian women’s cricket team captain Jhulan Goswami in her biopic.