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Posted at: Jan 12, 2018, 5:23 PM; last updated: Jan 12, 2018, 5:23 PM (IST)MOVIE REVIEW: MUKKABAAZ

Quite a knock-out punch!

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Film: Mukkabaaz

  • Director: Anurag Kashyap
  • Cast: Vineet Kumar Singh, Zoya Hussain,Ravi Kishan andJimmy Shergill
Quite a knock-out punch!

Nonika Singh

First things first, this isn’t your usual slice of dark and morbid cinema that maverick director Anurag Kashyap is normally associated with. Indeed, like all his films, here too he keeps you on the edge and takes you to real India as he tells the story of this desi boxer from Bareilly.

Or, hold it…this is not just another sports drama. Layering it thick and strong with a love story running on parallel track, the film shines as much for the luminosity of love, all too evident in the eyes of its lead couple, as the meaningful punches it packs. 

Caste politics, politics in sports, cow vigilantism… the narrative entails a whole lot of issues. On the surface it may appear that Kashyap is biting more than he can chew, but he effortlessly weaves different threads. Not that the film doesn’t carry the baggage of excesses. Archetype is what defines the character of Jimmy Shergill. As the despotic don and head of local sports federation Bhagwan Mishra, he is a villain in the truest sense of the word and quite in line with the devilish bad guys Bollywood has been churning out. Yet, placed at the centre of the film (Shergill has a meaty part) his heartless act(s) are a perfect pivot from where the film pans out to include more empathetic characters.

Essentially about the passion and ambition of this boxer Shravan Singh (Vineet Kumar Singh) his obstacle race is complicated more so by his love affair with a mute girl Sunaina (Zoya Hussain). The narrative jumps, hop steps and races towards an expected and not-so-expected climax. There is no heart in your mouth victory finale, no jingoistic jargon, otherwise a staple of sports biopics. 

Sure this isn’t a biopic, biopic. Yet, inspired from a true incident… everything rings true. Locales, lingo, settings, prickly and sprightly dialogues, boxing bouts and above all the characters are spot on. Vineet, who happens to be Kashyap’s cousin and is also one of the many writers of the film, literally delivers a knockout punch. Incredibly believable as the boxer (he trained for a year), the lover and the man who tries to balance his sporting dream with the harsh realities around him, he is truly superlative. Zoya Hussain as the girl who can hear but can't speak is no dumbo either. Full of spark and spunk, she too finds her way through the volatile times that India and particularly its women live in.  

Kashyap and his team of writers don't look into the social prism from one side alone, rather they offset one against the other. The venom of a low caste officer is as palpable as that of upper caste Brahmin Bhagwan who believes ‘Hum Brahmin hai hum aadesh dete hain’. Indeed, in portraying Bhagwan, Kashyap goes to the extreme. But then he bucks the formula as well as dittoes it to some extent. In the process, he creates a suitably powered narrative that has all your attention. The film may not hit you in the guts nor make your eyes moist but brings to fore enough harsh truths and makes many a valid point, including what a job means and entails for those taken on sports quota. Quota, in fact, is a keyword here though mentioned only once by Ravi Kishen. As the Harijan coach sympathetic to the underdog he is remarkably effective and it’s with him that you learn the fine distinction between Mukkebaaz and Mukkabaaz.  In case you are wondering why Kashyap titled his film Mukkabaaz and not with e, well, watch the film to know the not so subtle difference. No reason to skip Mukkabaaz that has had its journey from opening at Toronto International Film Festival to eliciting standing ovation at MAMI to finally hitting the theatres. It may not be a trademark Kashyap film, but is honest and strangely enough fuzzily warm too. Check it out. 

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