Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Vineet Kumar Singh, Zoya Hussain, Jimmy Sheirgill, Ravi Kishan
The biggest challenge for sportsmen in India is not to be great in their game but to overcome the dirty politics in the system. It’s because of these pathetic system and bureaucracy ; our nation gets deprived of so much talent. Many potential sportsmen either have to compromise, get eventually settled on government jobs or witness their own downfall just because they had only talent and no reference. Mukkabaaz is based on a real story of just like one of such sportsmen and it is told by the real Mukkabaaz of Bollywood – Anurag Kashyap, one of my favorite directors of all time.
Shravan Singh (Vineet Kumar Singh) is a top boxer from the region controlled by political leader Bhagwan Das (Jimmy Sheirgill). One day, Shravan gets in argument with Bhagwan Das and also falls in love with his niece Sunaina (Zoya Hussain). This boxer is now going to get chewed up among love, boxing and the convoluted politics of Bhagwan Das.
Set in small town of Uttar Pradesh, Mukkabaaz is as real a story as it can get. The first scene summarizes almost everything the film is going to portray. Shravan Singh talking to his boxing colleague about how every sportsman in India is more interested in getting a government job rather than playing for the nation. The script, through characters of Shravan, Sunaina, Bhagwan Das and Coach Sanjay Kumar (Ravi Kishan), makes up for a gritty and compelling tale of chaos that is reflective of the gruesome world we live in.
Kashyap takes his time to unfold this saga & amalgamation of love and boxing in Shravan’s life. Initially, the film is light-hearted as Shravan and Zoya are enjoying their romantic lives. It is a rare phenomenon with Anurag Kashyap film but that’s why it’s vital. Their romantic innocence sets the foundation for the storm which comes ahead in the film. The conversation of Shravan with his father about sports and passion is utterly relatable to all Indian parents and is also hilarious.
Well, it’s Kashyap so the dark theme is inevitable and that’s the true intention of Mukkabaaz. He smartly moves the narrative from humor and love to the muddy ventures of Bhagwan Das which will create irreversible problems for Shravan. You can witness the complex life of Shravan when he is juggling with his boxing, his personal life, professional one and the time he spends in making things right by fighting with Bhagwan Das and the system. It takes a toll on his way of living, he is getting burdened with so much pressure of real world rather than focusing on his superior boxing talent. This is a real scenario that happens with so many sportsmen in India.
After around 1 hour 30 minutes, Mukkabaaz seems unstoppable in its storytelling as things go darker and uglier. This is not a one sided fight. No. Bhagwan Das is powerful and has a huge network but Shravan Singh is also an extremely aggressive person so he takes on the challenge to become a boxer no matter what. This makes the movie hugely engaging with mighty energy.
Image Source: Phantom Films
Everytime the chaos in Shravans life becomes too much, Kashyap cleverly introduces Coach Sanjay Kumar and their chemistry together is worth enjoying. Sanjay Kumar’s firmness is a strong support for Mukkabaaz. This is where the film reaches its peak when Shravan is training hard for boxing, Coach teaching and shouting at him and is also giving Shravan some personal life advices to keep his life on track. The antagonist Bhagwan Das has been developed very well by Kashyap. His persona of being superior for being a Brahman, his plans to stop Shravan from becoming a boxer and ending his love life give the movie a truly devastating treatment.
The interesting phase of Shravan working in railways is the harsh realities of our country’s sportsmen. Kashyap shows it with the routine of our boxer going to office, doing unnecessary work just so that he can provide for his family and attend the training in evening. The frustration that is filling inside him and that scene when he confronts his superior are one of the best moments of Mukkabaaz. Anurag Kashyap has yet again successfully managed to bring out the realistic elements from his story and you will relate to it.
Coming to drawbacks, editing of Mukkabaaz seemed a bit ordinary. Some scenes didn’t have much sense to include in the film and didn’t give much continuity to the story, like the one when Shravan-Zoya meet a foreigner. The first phase of the movie is a bit sluggish and has imbalance in its pacing. Also, the Paintra song was too loud. It’s a great track but you can’t even hear some of the dialogues Sanjay Kumar (Ravi Kishan) was saying during that song.
The screenplay and music of Mukkabaaz are potent. Be it the funny punches or gritty scenes, the writing is throughout brilliant. That’s why the conversation of Shravan-Zoya, Shravan-Sanjay Kumar and Shravan-Bhagwan Das were spot on.
It will be unfair not to talk about the hero of Mukkabaaz – Vineet Kumar Singh. I am always of a thought that if an actor has to portray a character, he needs to become one. Vineet Singh’s transformation to become a boxer is extremely satisfying. It gives you the authenticity you look in the film and that’s why it becomes real. A londha (young guy) from UP, passionate for boxing and is in love with a girl, Vineet gave the best performance of his career.
He is funny, always ready to fight and man, that training and boxing he does in the film prove his dedication towards his acting. Not just that, Vineet was equally effective when he romances Zoya. His aggression, anger and sadness make the film accomplish greatness. Two scenes I loved of Vineet’s performance – one when he argues with this father about sports and passion, and another is when he is just listening to the sub-coach about boxing and he is crying. Those pretty much show Vineet’s acting talent.
I observe a lot and in case of an Anurag Kashayp movie, that observation becomes predominant. Just a thought, Mukkabaaz is also the story of Anurag Kashyap himself. Not literally of course, but if you watch it carefully, you will understand, he is also the rebel and boxer of Bollywood who has fought his way to become a truly special filmmaker. Well, as there’s a dialogue in film Blade Runner 2049, “There’s a bit of every artist in their work.”
Oh, the most important thing, Bharat Mata Ki Jai.