There is no doubt that MC Mary Kom is among one of the finest sports persons India has ever produced, and her achievements can be chronicled on celluloid, but are we ready to visualise a girl from a poor Manipuri village as it is? Director Omung Kumar’s Mary Kom is a highly fictionalised account of what actually happened, and in the process it turned out to be one of those films which are made just for whistles and quick money.
There are spoilers ahead, so you’re suggested to come back to this article after watching the film. Thanks in case you’re proceeding.
So, here is a girl in Kangathei, a small village in Manipur, who keeps picking fights with boys. Like Hulk, her secret is also anger, and that brings her to Narjit Singh (Sunil Thapa), a popular coach in the vicinity. Angry meets super-angry and together they set out on a journey to conquer the world. Now, it’s not possible without the help of a supportive family, so she meets Onler (Darshan Kumaar), a good-hearted football player. Mary Kom (Priyanka Chopra) wins three World Championships and then decides to get married. But, what will happen to her boxing career? Will she ever be able to return to the ring? Will a family life absorb her completely? The inter-personal and intra-personal conflicts of a daring sports woman form the rest of the film.
Ok, step by step. How much dramatic can it be? There is a clear-cut demarcation between a sports person’s biopic and a film made on sports. We have witnessed the Awwal Numbers and Chain Kuli Ki Main Kulis in the past, but they never claimed to be based on real stories. The scenario has completely changed after Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Despite being over-dramatic in some of the sequences, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was a film that showcased the sub-conscious of Milkha as a refugee turned sprinter, while in Mary Kom, the makers have conveniently ignored the inner battle of a mother who wants to regain her boxing career.
There is a husband who constantly promises that he will keep the family worries to himself, but calls Mary just before her important matches. Most of Mary’s bouts are displayed with the same strategy; she seems to lose in the beginning but eventually wins. Such things might have happened in reality, but what you’re showing on the silver screen is not much different than what happens in Dil Bole Hadippa and Patiala House, so it doesn’t remain a biopic in its natural form.
At this stage, expecting another Raging Bull or the Hustler or Invictus, will be a far-fetched dream, but at least don’t undermine the achievements of a champion. Nobody is asking for a documentary, but it shouldn’t either look like that Akshay Kumar has reincarnated in Manipur.
Fine, let me explain some scenes for you. Here is a big-bulky Manipuri rebel who invites people to fight for money. Mary accepts his challenge and stands him for more than 45 seconds, but the fight looks so bizarre with over-powering background music that you’ll end up believing that this incident probably never happened. Similarly, Mary’s bout with a German boxer is extremely predictable. The scenes are so much stretched that you automatically know from the beginning who is going to win. The old tactic of countdown has been used so many times that you would like to count it fast, so that you can reach out to the next scene.
In another sequence, Mary’s father, who is not on talking terms with her, couldn’t control his emotions when she is at the receiving end inside the ring, and shouts out loud. Priyanka, who was probably instructed by the director to look directly into the camera, gets her cue in some other country and emerges victorious. You see, where’s the problem? It’s with the cheering that is supposed to transform into box-office success.
The boxing federation has one caricature of a chief, a dim witted-weirdly accented Mr Sharma. Sharma Jee keeps bringing one obstacle after another in Mary’s way throughout the film only to have a sudden heart-change in the climax. It’s too quick to even put a chameleon to shame. I understand that the boxing federation has done severe damages to some of the boxers’ careers, but this was like stretching it too far. And, I am still not talking about funny brand placements and the portrayal of rebels. I just hope that people who know Mary Kom don’t refuse to consider it a biopic.
However, the film has one person who tries her best to work as a cohesive force. Priyanka Chopra is in her elements and is the force behind the film. Leave aside her North-Indian features; she portrays the character with all her energy and talent. Her physique, her expressions and perfectly timed pauses give her the power to hold the audience till the climax of the film. Many of us would have problems with her accent but she does whatever she could, in capacity of the lead actor, to make Mary Kom an entertaining film. Darshan Kumaar is natural and Sunil Thapa is furious. I am just wondering, was it deliberate on the director’s part to choose Darshan as Onler Kom? Because, he can easily pass off as a North-Indian guy also.
You may miss picturesque landscapes of Manipur as most of the film is set inside indoor stadiums, but the editors have done a fantastic job. The premises keep changing before you go out for snacks. The tempo of the film is also acceptable, provided you take it as just another Bollywood ‘masala’ film.
Everything said and done, it’s good to see a mainstream Hindi film with a protagonist from the North-East, that too a woman, a champion though.