Poorna is a story about conquering mountains – literal and metaphorical. A 13-year-old Adivasi from Telangana becomes the youngest girl to climb Mount Everest. Poorna’s journey from her ramshackle hut to the highest point on the planet is so improbable that it had to be true. Director Rahul Bose mines this incredible story to create a film that is unassuming, inspiring and sweet without being cloyingly sentimental.
Aditi Inamdar plays Poorna Malavath, a small but resilient girl who desperately wants to avoid the fate that girls her age eventually succumb to – marriage. Poorna starts to climb mountains instead. Her frail frame harbors enormous will power. She faces devastating loss but she doesn’t give up. Aditi has no actor affectations. Her performance has a heart-breaking innocence. S. Mariya who plays Poorna’s cousin and best friend is equally good. Their scenes together are the backbone of this film.
The child actors and the locales root the film and give it authenticity. The adults aren’t as satisfying. Rahul does double duty – he also plays R S Praveen Kumar, the IPS officer who cleaned up the school system and mentored Poorna. Rahul is a competent actor but his scenes – especially with the CM and other officials – are poorly scripted. At one point, Heeba Shah, playing a government official warns Kumar about trying to create slumdog mountaineers. I wanted more Poorna and less Praveen. I wanted to get deeper into the head of this formidable girl.
In a movie about mountains, limited budgets also become a stumbling block. Rahul and DOP Subhransu Kumar Das work around this but the visuals of the final ascent aren’t as magical as they should have been. And yet, there is a satisfaction in watching Poorna ascend the Everest. Her victory and courage are what stays with you.
Despite the bumps, this is a story that should be seen and shared. Full applause to Rahul for bringing it to us.