• Director: Anurag Kashyap
  • Cast: Vineet Singh, Zoya Hussain, Jimmy Shergill, Ravi Kisan
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 25 mins
  • Rating: ★★★½

 ‘Mukkabaaz’ is not your usual sports film where you walk out of the theater feeling like a champion yourself. No, it’s much more than that…

Anurag Kashyap’s gritty drama of what happens in and around the boxing ring in the life of a local boxer, takes you straight to the heartland of India – Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh to be precise. And throws you right in the midst of caste politics, neighborhood brawls, violence, gender debates and of course, the deplorable conditions despite which sports enthusiasts in small town India continue to strive through. His canvas is wide open – and in it emerges a milieu of ordinary lives tempered with extraordinary courage and passion.

Shravan Kumar (Vineet Singh) is one of the strongest upcoming boxers in his area but his open defiance towards his coach, Bhagwan Das Mishra (Jimmy Shergill) – earns him his wrath. Bhagwan Das who thinks nothing of making his team of aspiring boxers carry out his personal household chores rather than sweat it out in practice or tournaments, swears to finish Shravan’s career before it’s even taken off.

In addition, Shravan falling head over heels in love with Sunaina (Zoya Hussain), Bhagwan’s niece only serves to make things worse.

That said, Shravan and Sunaina’s no holds barred, full-blown romance is refreshingly reminiscent of 80’s Bollywood. And so is our hero at times – because he must fight against all odds – his antagonists, his parents, his work place, his modest domestic circumstances – just so he can inch closer to his dream. And of course, him being a boxer works to his advantage, as situations demand that he must pack in a few hard punches off the boxing ring as well.

In fact, despite being a contender for the Nationals, Shravan’s immediate environment is anything but conducive to having a life immersed in sports. Shravan’s father sees no good reason for his son to be pursuing boxing. He would rather Shravan had studied and gotten himself a job. In fact, in a bittersweet scene, when an exasperated Shravan says his reason to carry on is his ‘Passion!’ His father repeats to Shravan’s sister – “isko ‘Fhashion’ karna hai!”

Albeit, laced with humor and sarcasm  – the gritty reality shown in Mukkabaz is not lost on its viewers.

From heated father-son embroils because the former doesn’t get the latter’s passion for the sport to Shravan being shafted around disrespectfully in a job he lands through the sports quota – your heart goes out to this man whose life becomes more about knocking out his obstacles than his sporting opponents.

Of course, there is also Bhagwan Das – lurking around – using his clout with the sports academies and ministries to make things difficult for Shravan. His redemption comes in the form of Sanjay Kumar (Ravi Kisan) – a ‘low caste’ boxing coach who stands up to Bhagwan’s high caste Brahmin pride and takes on the challenge of supporting & coaching Shravan.

And central to Shravan’s life is the feisty Sunaina – who may be mute by birth but is anything but silent. Despite not speaking a word, she makes her herself heard – loud and clear each time she has a point to make.

If Mukkabaaz loses out on one final punch it’s because of its lengthy runtime though most of the zany, humorous dialogues make up for most of it. And so does the superlative job done by it’s cast.

Vineet Singh infuses his character as the stubborn, defiant, passionate and yet vulnerable Shravan with much soul and intensity. Zoya Hussain with her infectious smile and evocative expressions leaves a striking impression as Sunaina. Jimmy Shergill’s rendition of his character Bhagwan Das, pierces though the narrative – he is bigoted and he is evil and he is quite the scene stealer. Ravi Kisan, much unlike his Bhojpuri films avatar is understated and it works!

Mukkabaaz is clearly not just any sports film with muscle, sweat and grime and an underdog to root for. Watch it for the several strong statements it makes but the strongest one for the cause of sporting enthusiasts who languish in the sidelines for the lack of support from the system.

 

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