Srijit Mukherji replaces Rahul Dholakia as director of Mithali Raj biopic 'Shabaash Mithu'

Filmmaker Srijit Mukherji has come on board to direct Taapsee Pannu-headlined 'Shabaash Mithu' after Rahul Dholakia's exit from the project owing to change in schedules amid the coronavirus pandemic, the makers of the film announced Tuesday.

'Shabaash Mithu', the biopic on Indian cricketer Mithali Raj, went on floors in April, before the second wave of COVID-19 put the shooting on hold. The film is backed by Viacom18 Studios.

Ajit Andhare, COO, Viacom18 Studios said it was unfortunate that Dholakia, known for movies such as 'Parzania' and 'Raees', won't be able to direct the biopic.

"COVID disruptions have required rescheduling of the shoot and as a result, Rahul is moving on from 'Shabaash Mithu.' It's unfortunate that after sharing and nurturing this dream for a long time, Rahul has to part ways. His contribution will remain, I thank him for that and wish him the very best," Andhare said in a statement.

Andhare said he is confident that Mukherji will do justice to 'Shabaash Mithu' as the helmer has also directed a segment on the studio's upcoming Netflix anthology, 'Ray.'

"Srijit Mukherji will now take over the director's mantle. He has worked with us closely on 'Ray' and our plans of making a cricket film together will now come to fruition. I am sure he will bring all his passion and craft to this dream film," Andhare added.

Mukherji, known for helming Bengali films like 'Jaatishwar' and 'Gumnaami', said he was always inspired by the life of Raj and was thrilled to direct her biopic.

"I was excited since I had first heard of this film being made and now that I am a part of it I look forward to kickstarting the journey to bring this exhilarating story to the silver screen soon," the director said.

Dholakia said he was unable to direct the biopic as "COVID messed up everyone's schedules, mine was no different".

"Unfortunately, I won't be directing the fabulous script written by Priya Aven and conceived by Ajit Andhare on the life of the legendary cricketer Mithali Raj.

"The passion of a studio head like Ajit Andhare who sat with us on all discussions- in COVID, in lockdowns; at all times, the passion of a writer like Priya who worked very hard to strike the balance between emotion and cricket is commendable," Dholakia said.

The director also lauded Pannu's passion to "immerse herself' in the character and said it was a delight to work with the actor.

"Ajit has a vision and a plan for the film and the way to release it. I wish him and the team the very best for it," Dholakia added.

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