Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mary Kom

Mary kom

Rating- 2.5 stars

Last time Sanjay Leela Bhansali cast Priyanka Chopra in a film, she swayed and swung like a ribbon and sexily buttoned up her shirt. From gorgeous to grit, from sensuous to scars, Priyanka Chopra takes a full U turn and plays the titular role in the much talked about biopic Mary Kom.

On one hand it’s a good thing that filmmakers are trying to put these inspiring stories on celluloid, but soon they lose the plot in an effort to make them commercially viable.

Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom is a poor farmer’s daughter with a collective temperament of a Sunny Deol and a Dolly Bindra. She has to or else how do you justify her choice of sports. See you can’t be a female boxer till you bash boys up and pick up fights on a daily basis. Fortunately the town coach (Narjit-human-angry-bird-Singh) channelizes her anger by training her and before you know (or her father) she is already the state champion. Then? Then nothing we move from one thunderous victory to another because the writer (Saiwyn Qadras) was either underpaid or felt lazy and decided to juxtapose Mary’s boxing matches back to back and clumsily string then all to make a very patchy first half of the movie.

It’s almost a gold mine for writers to deal with the story of an underdog who is a girl and is from Manipur. Alas they take the beaten path. Besides financial, social and political hardships they manipulate audiences by packing a few sexist and racist angles and then finally show the protagonist rise above and against all odds; a run on the mountains, pushups on some river, and pull-ups on trees and give the gym dodgers like us the guilt of a lifetime.

There is also a love story which is as simplistic as the movie. The boy meets the girl, is impressed, proposes to her as they down gol gappas together (awww how real) and the girl says yes because he is ‘cool’ with her boxing and 'permits' her to play even after their marriage.
Though Darshan Kumar plays Onler, Mary’s husband well who genuinely supports her and persuades her to follow her ring dreams after she has delivered her twin sons. This was one of the most heartwarming parts of the film and hopefully would bring the much required change in the man-wife relationship amongst Indian couples.

The film shows Mary Kom’s real struggles; like a pair of torn tattered shoes during her practice (awww so sad!) Once she is not even recognized by a young girl who claims to be her big fan. (Chi what kind of a fan is she, hmph?) Not only this, Mary’s labor lasted for hours till the doctors finally decided to go for a Caesarean section, the kind of struggle that err a lot of the women face worldwide. It’s this simplistic narrative that trivializes the inspiring sportsperson’s story and her real struggle.

The climax, like most of the film lacked a convincing crisis and hence it failed to inspire. I wonder how much the ending of the film was fictionalized because it showed Mary struggling against an unforgiving German boxer in the ring as she fought a grave battle on the personal front. Hence you have the obvious montages of shots from her personal and professional life (like in Bhag Milkha Bhag) and ending into a national anthem to ensure that you wake up and stand if you have fallen asleep.

Priyanka-I-am-sure-getting-either-a-national-award-or-Padma-Shree-if-not-Bhushan-Chopra is herself. She is ‘ACTING’ which includes giggling, sulking, getting angry, looking serious, and trying her best to show she is portraying the second most important role of her life, of course after Babli Badmash! She clearly has trained hard to come close to Mary's physicality but doesn't quite own her life. She mixes her 'f' and 'ph' in name of getting the diction right. Expect a lot of 'Ph'ocus 'ph'acility abd 'ph'orce in the film that soon started to irritate me.
Also there is no mention of Mary's fears, flaws or insecurities. The struggle is mostly external. It hence establishes her as an angry 'ph'ighter but without an inner conflict this making the story a tad uninspiring.

The good thing is that the popularity of a superstar like Priyanka Chopra will sell draw audiences to theaters, inspire young girls to follow their dreams, put Manipur on the Indian map and sensitize many towards people from the North East and that will be the biggest achievement of the film.

There are a few well written lines by Karan Singh Rathore like; “Pehle medals ke liye zindagi ko dau pe lagao, phir zindagi ke liye medals ko dau pe lagao” highlighting how badly our national sports heroes are treated.

So what’s the final verdict you ask? Is Mary Kom a bad film?
Certainly not, but it isn’t a great film either. I only wish it was less pretentious.

I definitely rooted for Mary Kom but not as much as I did for Kabir and his vanar sena in Chak De India.

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