Behind every successful woman is a man realising his dreams through her – this simple premise undergirds Mr and Mrs Mahi. The new film from Sharan Sharma is A Star is Born via Abhimaan, against the backdrop of cricket.

Mahendra (Rajkummar Rao) is a bundle of bitterness after his batting career goes nowhere. Mahendra, nicknamed Mahi after the cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni, isn’t allowed to nurse his wounds quietly. His status-obsessed father (Kumud Mishra) keeps goading him about his failure. An arranged marriage with Mahima (Janhvi Kapoor) is only the latest compromise.

What do you know? Mahima is also nicknamed Mahi and shares with Mahendra an obsession with the sport. Cricketing chit-chat constitutes pillow talk for this young couple.

Mahendra’s decision to coach Mahima after seeing her prowess with the bat is just what a loving husband would do – until Mahima begins to shine at her new vocation.

The hyphenated relationship explored by Sharma’s screenplay, co-written with Nikhil Mehrotra, is actually a solo show. The writers have a far better understanding of the narrative’s Mr rather than the Mrs.

Dekha Tenu, Mr and Mrs Mahi (2024).

The 138-minute film has sharp things to say about male ambition, the ways in which mean-spirited fathers damage their sons, and the fragility of egos predicated on a conventional idea of success. Mahendra would be forgiven if he swings a bat at his fatuous daddy’s head (Kumud Mishra plays the confidence-crushing juggernaut all too convincingly).

Unearned redemption, feel-good sentiment and convenient plotting undermine the film’s strong early section. Mahima’s submissiveness, which has already begun to loom, becomes impossible to ignore.

The focus on Mahendra’s quest for stardom by proxy swallows up Mahima. Forever seeking validation from Mahendra, Mahima is never her own woman despite being described as an equal partner in a “two-in-one” package.

Infantilised by her parents – just as Mahendra by his father treated like an overgrown child – Mahima finds a new daddy in her husband. “He is the strength in my sixers,” Mahima says dreamily about a spouse who is edgy, and at times, nasty.

Janhvi Kapoor’s best performance so far has been in Sharan Sharma’s biopic Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl (2020). Sharma’s skill at presenting Kapoor as earnest, open-hearted and guileless continues in the new movie, although the cricketers whom Mahima faces during her matches feel like the real deal.

Sharma’s talent for staging emotional scenes carry Mr and Mrs Mahi over its post-interval bumps. Consistency, and emotional intelligence, are provided by a pitch-perfect Rajkummar Rao.

Like the tail-end batsman who walks into disarray and sets the scoreboard right, Rao overshadows his co-star and the rest of the cast without ever trying to. Rao is especially memorable when Mahendra is at his most desperate, grasping for a shot at fame that will never be his.

Mr and Mrs Mahi (2024).