Who in his sanest mind would have ever imagined that out of all those Barjatyas, Chopras and Johar, Hindi cinema’s one of the finest love stories would be narrated by Anurag Kashyap, someone known for dark themed films? Mukkabaaz is far from the underdog-fights-the-system-finally-emerges-winner kind of cliché we have been watching in the name of sports film genre. Here, boxing is a metaphor for the key character, Shravan’s struggles in life, right from his home, heart and boxing ring.
“Apne talent ka praman patra lekar society mein jhanda gaadhne nikle ho?”
Vineet Kumar Singh is sure to leave an indelible mark on your mind, making you question everything about our films, right from those stars, perfectionists to method actors. To be precise, how far would you go to make your dream come true? Vineet Kumar Singh, though distantly related to Anurag Kashyap, never had it easy. Years ago, he approached Anurag Kashyap with his script, only to be told that he will have to become a real boxer if he wants this film to see the light of day.
“Zyaada important hai tum kisko jaante ho, kisko pehchante ho,
kaun tumko jaanta hai, kaun tumko manta hai.”
At 36, when other boxers generally retire, Vineet Kumar Singh went on to pursue his career in boxing. He sold his belongings, gave up his filmy ‘struggle’ and moved to Punjab to live an anonymous life of a guy who keeps training and boxing like a man possessed. After watching Mukkabaaz, you’d scoff at those ‘training montage songs’ of Sultans and Dangals of this world.
The film’s boxing training not only makes Vineet look convincing in a boxer’s role, but depicts the ‘hunger’ that he as a person has to make his dream come true. This hunger couldn’t have been depicted on his face without dedication of such mammoth level. No actor worth his salt could ever do that unless it comes from within. The five-year training is no marketing gimmick, but an earnest and organic way of infusing life in one’s performance.
“Aur bade ghar ki kanya paane wala funda to hai yeh.”
Debutant Zoya Hussain is no ‘hero’s morale booster’ here. The strength of this character lies in her eloquent eyes and muted lips. It is indeed no wonder she’s called Sunaina here. Not someone to cow down before her speech disability, Sunaina is fiery young woman with oodles of charisma and chutzpah. The husband-wife tiff, especially where she asks Shravan to learn sign language and her ‘conversation’ with mother are stuff legends are made of.
The other actor to watch out for is Jimmy Shergill. His character of Bhagwaan Mishra isn’t your Amrish Puri type of villain. There’s a line in the film that defines his character: Khud to kuch karte nahin, aur agar dimaag ghoom gaya to kisi aur ko bhi kuch karne nahi dete. This stubbornness i.e. ‘zidd’ of this character is the film’s villain, not just the person. The film’s last scene subtly hints at this fact, if you care enough to notice.
Ravi Kishan, as a ‘Harijan boxing coach’ lends support and the much-needed balance to the film’s narrative, as well as protagonist. This underutilized gem of an actor makes his presence felt, despite a brief appearance and makes you wish to see more of him. Kudos to Mukesh Chhabra’s excellent casting, right from the lead actors to the supporting ones, especially the actor who played Shravan’s father.
“Isko kehte hain Paintra.”
The team of choreographers i.e. Rajeev Ravi, Shanker Raman, Jay Patel and Jayesh Nair capture the romance with as equal passion as they do in sparring and training sequences, making them seem so seamless you won’t believe the story is being narrated through four pair of eyes. Aarti Bajaj and Ankit Bidyadhar cut the film with such adroit precision that not a single scene seems to drag or indulge. Case in point, the cow vigilant scenes and the scene where Bhagwaan Mishra asks Shravan to gulp his urine to secure his entry into boxing at district level.
The soul of Mukkabaaz, however, lies in its music. The song, ‘Bahut dukkha mann’ rendered by her and Dev Arijit will linger on your mind for hours together after leaving the auditorium, compelling you to look up for the Mukkabaaz album online. The other songs like ‘Chipkali’ (A beautiful montage that encapsulates passion locking horns with profession), ‘Mushkil hai apna mel priye’, ‘Haathapai’ and the popular ‘Paintra’ by Nucleya and Divine are intricately woven into the film’s narrative. Music director Rachita Arora take a bow.
“Chance humko bhi mila tha lekin netikta ke chh** mein mistake ho gaya.”
Rising light-years above his debacle of the forgettable ‘Bombay Velvet’, Anurag Kashyap is back in his form here. Mukkabaaz is where Anurag Kashyap in his rawest glory, maneuvers through the familiar lanes of Dev D and Gangs of Wasseypur, assimilating with producer Anand L. Rai’s school of cinema in Raanjhana. What you get is a romance as rustic as Nagraj Manjule’s Marathi masterpiece, ‘Sairat’, and boxing as real as Sudha K. Prasad’s ‘Saala Khadoos’ with broad strokes of blood-blended hues of love.
While summing up, one is suddenly tempted to read between the lines of the protagonist being christened as Shravan and antagonist being called Bhagwaan. Anurag Kashyap once quoted that he is an atheist and believes only in one god i.e. cinema. Is Mukkabaaz an atheist director’s way of portraying the conflict of a sincere devotee Shravan (named after the pious character in Ramayana who was sincerely devoted to his parents) with the almighty (who nurtures the devotee as well as spells doom for him). Perhaps, yes. After all, ‘No Smoking’, too, was about human and the almighty and smoking was a mere metaphor, just like boxing in Mukkabaaz.
In a nutshell, Mukkabaaz perfects the ‘Paintra’ of narrating a blood-blended love story on the silver screen and surely deserves your time and money.
“Experience share kar rahe hain, lena hai to lijiye, warna sarakiye…”