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Mary Kom:..for…. awards.Kom

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MUMBAI: Sports films are not the best bets on the Indian screen, least of all biopics. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag worked thanks to its climax where Milkha outruns a Pakistani champ in Pakistan. Indians may lose to all of world but winning against Pakistan matters the most.  Mary Kom offers no such satisfaction. It remains a sports biopic drama.

Mary Kom was in news in 2012 when she won an Olympic bronze, which was not much when one thinks about her six world amateur wins; five gold and one silver medals. She would, hence, be expected to win a Gold at the Olympics.

However, it is a story of grit and determination of a young woman from Manipur, who finds a boxing glove one curfew-imposed night in the trouble-torn Manipur state, far removed from rest of India and the comforts and facilities the rest of India enjoys. Mary’s and other Manipuri’s valid grouse is that they are proud of India but most of the Indians don’t even consider ‘us’ as Indians.

Priyanka Chopra plays Chungneijang, as she was christened at birth and rechristened M C Mary Kom by M Narjit Singh (played by Sunil Thapa), the state boxing coach. Mary Kom has been fascinated by the sport of boxing since finding that glove in her childhood. Since then, boxing becomes her aim and ambition in life. She is a rebel, the eldest of three children in her family, and she always does what she wants to do for herself.

Producers: Viacom 18, Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Director: Omung Kumar.

Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumaar, Sunil Thapa.

One day, Chopra discovers a boxing academy where the coach is a stickler and reluctant to accept her. She has to pass a one month test sitting on bench and watching others training before she is accepted. Eventually, her determination gets her through and the coach accepts her as his ward. This is where the legend of Mary Kom begins. Soon, she is on the national boxing scene, followed by the Asian and later international scene.

The rest of the film is about Mary Kom’s travails through family resistance, her marriage and children that follow; balancing between her boxing life and bringing up her twin children, one of whom is seriously afflicted with a heart problem. Yet, her husband, Onler (played by Darshan Kumaar), is her mainstay, who realises that boxing is her life and goes all out to support her to continue her boxing even after marriage with a promise to look after the children.

After her marriage and children, Mary Kom returned to boxing due to coaxing by her husband with eight years gone by. What follows is well-known and is not covered in the film except her return.

The film also points to the poor conditions and diet of tea and bananas that the Boxing Federation provides, the high-handedness of politicians controlling the Federation and their manipulations in team selections. The film dwells deeply on the rigorous training and endurance tests that Mary Kom goes through, which one was not aware a boxer needed to do.

Like with other recent heroine-oriented films, here too all except Chopra are new faces. This is supposed to not only balance the budget but also land a touch of reality as the co-performers have no set image. Thus, Thapa, Kumaar and others make a perfect foil to the protagonist, Chopra, trying to get under the skin of a living character, Mary Kom. Chopra, on her part, gives her best to this film and excels. Her performance is sure to be lauded by critics and rewarded with awards.

Direction is praiseworthy this being Omung Kumar’s first film and a tough one at that being a biography. The film does sag at times but that is inevitable. The last fight, as she fights in China while her little child is undergoing a heart surgery is cliche like a 70s film where the protagonist ONLY takes punches and a miracle happens as the operation in Gurgaon is successful, fuelling Mary Kom with a newfound determination to win the fight in the third round. Dialogue is earthy and laced with humour at times. The film has too many songs for the kind of film it is; some relate the state of mind of Mary Kom while the lullaby is meant to show her balancing her career and family ties. Cinematography by Keiko Nakahara is excellent.

Mary Kom is being released on a big scale at multiple screens wanting to cash in on the huge hype created in the media. The film will find patronage mainly at elite multiplexes while it has no appeal for the typical single screen patrons. The film has been exempted from paying entertainment tax while some other states are expected to follow but that won’t be much help.

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