By Mayank Jain (LMB)
Rather than starting with the plot of the movie or the cast or about the performances of various actors in the movie, I’ll start with the name of the director, Anurag Kashyap, which is more than enough to tell anything about the movie. This man, after Ram Gopal Verma and Madhur Bhandarkar, has the impulsiveness with which he dares to go head on into the contentious issues of the country that no other or I would say, the mainstream film makers would shy away from, especially in these tricky times. After producing / directing movies like Udaan, Shahgird, Gulaal, Paanch, Dev D, Black Friday and I should not miss, Gangs of Wasseypur, Mukkabaz is another gem created by him. Those who had, in the past, accused him of being too dark and too edgy will sense in this movie much darkness but also the discomfort of darkness being dispelled by force.
There are many movies made on sports in the past which talks about the game or the hard work & sacrifice of the player(s) and the celebration of success, Mukkabaz is not just another movie on sports. This one is not a celebration of sports but a hard-nosed look at the rampant corruption, nepotism and casteist politics at the core of sports in India and most importantly, in Uttar Pradesh. It launches a scathing attack on the system and hypocrisies of our society with a blend of love and humour.
The movie is about a Bareilly based boxer Shravan Singh (Vineet Kumar Singh) who has aspirations to become a national level champion. It’s not just a game for him, it’s his ticket for a better life, one that offers respect. But his boxing career almost comes to an abrupt end when he crosses swords with boxing coach Bhagwan Das Mishra (Jimmy Shergill) and gets even more complicated and dirty when he falls in love with Mishra’s niece Sunaina (Zoya Hussain). But in fact, it’s the lady and his love for her that stroke the rebellion in him.
Like most of the sports federations in India, the UP federation is also cracking under political pressure. The officials are neck deep in corruption and wants to be in the good books of political heavyweights, but Shravan with his idealism and passion for boxing is a misfit. He is angry and certainly not the one to bow down. He fights for his passion and for his love (Sunaina). Bhagwan Das tries every move to break Shravan but he’s not the one to get easily.
Players don’t understand the difference between medicines and prohibited drugs. For them, winning the state or national level championship is about getting a government job. They never aspire to win medals. Anurag brings all these facets out in the open and then makes strong comments.
Besides showing the poor state of sports, this movie also throws light on casteism, which stills prevails in the major part of the country. In one of the scenes, Bhagwan Das asks a waiter to bring another jug for a harassed and helpless coach Sanjay Kumar (Ravi Kishan), who belongs to a backward caste.
Mukkabaz is a blend of everything that a move should have, it has drama, emotions, humour, love, anger and what not. Anurag, as everybody know, shoots at real location and calls the rugged and dirty streets as his studio. He takes us inside the modest household of Shravan where they don’t understand everyday English; in fact they are irritated by it. They probably consider English as one of the reasons for their misery. In one of the funny scenes, Shravan talks about his ‘passion’ and the electrician father (Rajesh Tailang) hears ‘fashion’ and keeps lecturing him. It’s weirdly funny and a tight slap on the face of the education system and a society which equates knowing English with being educated. There are many dialogues in the movie which definitely makes you laugh, one of which is “Jab baap shunya hai to hum kahan se Aryabhata ho jayenge (if father is a zero, how can I become Aryabhata)” and there are many more.
Coming to the performances, Vineet Kumar Singh, did what no other actor would have been able to do. He gave both his body and soul to Shravan and gave an impeccable performance which we all will cherish for years. His transformation from a lean boy to a masculine boxer is commendable. He worked for 2 long years to get the skills of a boxer and to look like one. His performance is legendary and who knows it might become his best one of a lifetime. During the whole 156 minutes of the movie, you will root for him, you will duck the punches with him and then you’ll go down with him, but will never leave him.
Talking about Jimmy Shergill, as always, gave his best performance as a negative character and one cannot forget to discuss about his acting while discussing the story. He punches you right in your face and knocks you down with the mobbish behaviour.
Zoya, the debutante, is at the lack of words but she did it with her eyes and expressions. She is aptly supported by the background music which needs a whole new article. The music is wonderful and non-mainstream and lyrics of the songs dares you to overlook.
Last but not the least, Ravi Kishan as Shravan’s coach, who helps him realize his dream and attempts to awaken the champion inside him, leaves you with a lasting impression.