Mary Kom (2014) Movie Review: Punches Below The Belt

Language : Hindi | Running Time : 122 Minutes | Director : Omung Kumar

A sports-drama whose greatest show of tension involves putting an infant on the death bed is rather unbecoming of a movie being classified as a sports-drama. Even as a film, it is a very cheap, manipulative segment to throw out and then follow it up with “Please stand up for the National Anthem” before the end credits. I don’t have a problem with the National Anthem, I have a problem with a movie that doesn’t rely on a good script or an actor’s excellent performance to sell a story but tries to manipulate the audience at every chance it gets. Mary Kom, the film about the exceptional eponymous boxer, has the scope to bring to life the fighter that Mary Kom is but apart from a few generic sequences there is never a place where the spirit comes through. It becomes a session for filmmakers on how manipulative a movie can get.

Mary Kom tries to chronicle the boxer’s life from the time she first takes up the glove to the time where she wins her first World Boxing Championship after becoming a mother. It has an excellent time frame to bring to life an exceptional woman and with Priyanka Chopra performing at her best, it could very well manage to do that but like “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag“, it falls prey to a superfluous and sugar rich script that is devoid of guts, spirit and inventiveness.

Priyanka-Chopra-Mary-Kom-2014-Latest-Movie-WallpaperThe problem here is that the movie sets out to show an against the odds triumph story and never for more than a couple of instances does it try to go away from the genre dumbing montages that we have seen aplenty in many other sports-dramas. The training camp in Manila with the lead training with the coach or the final act when the coach roots from home or the closest bar, the “earn your badges”coach-trainee moment are the kind of sequences that are available in most sports movies. Omung Kumar and Saiwyn Quadras play it safe, trying to fill the monumental decisions and achievements of Mary Kom with the sheer power of Priyanka Chopra’s performance and they would have even managed it, because Chopra is simply brilliant here, had they not resorted to playing “we are going to squeeze your heart dry and force tears”.

There’s a fine line between required emotional manipulation and going overboard with it. In Mary Kom, there’s hardly a controlled dose of it. Take the sequence where she is asked to choose between boxing and her father. It is an important period of Mary Kom’s life and to show the importance of her decision but instead of creating atmosphere to build a commendable scene, the camera moves on from the faces of the actors to the single burning boxing glove. This isn’t excellent symbolism but plain emotional trauma inducing filmmaking. We already know what boxing means to Mary Kom and how important it is to her that she earned her gloves and so, we are made to pity her instead of celebrate her.

The reason sports films like “Rocky”, “Hoosiers”, “Million Dollar Baby” are great films is because they create a mood where the characters grow and monumental decisions are not just generic face shots and thematic music. They are about the people on the screen. Mary Kom is more concerned about how to have the audience passing the tissue than a detailed character study.

priyankachopra-325My grouse with this movie is that it never really takes a serious look at Mary Kom’s persona other than the time where she is trying to force a comeback. It is loud, never understanding how subtlety is a better option. There is a scene where a father talks about making his daughter a Mary Kom and talking in third person about her when she is sitting right in front of him. The follow up is engrossing and Priyanka Chopra makes you realise the pain that an accomplished athlete goes through at such gross nonrecognition but the music pops up and the effort of the actress is dulled. In another scene Mary Kom shaves her head off. We realise that she has pent up anger but neither the fights are about her taking that anger off or coming to terms with it off the ring. There is no reason for that anger, no explanation of how she manages it.

Mary Kom brings a lot of points on the table – the troubles and sacrifices that the boxers make, the support and drive that Mary Kom’s husband Onler(Darshan Kumar) offers but it doesn’t really explore them in any form other than small episodes. These episodes are more less carrying the cue signs “Tissue paper to be passed”,”Audience Weep”. It doesn’t have an outlook that’s profound or endearing.

The brand placement for Iodex and Sugar Free are as banal and senseless as the Nokia Lumia brand placement in “Chennai Express“. I wish more time had been spent on developing a script, atleast I wouldn’t be placing a free ad for Saridon that’s much required after watching this movie.

Despite a stellar performance from Priyanka Chopra, who not being a North East Indian has sparked much debate, Mary Kom is a very manipulative film with hardly anything that offers a interesting perspective about an exceptional boxer. The debate about a non North East Indian being cast to play Mary Kom is another topic but despite the artificial freckles and prosthetic, Priyanka Chopra tries her mighty best to breathe life as an aspiring boxer but there’s no support for her here, neither from the director, the music or the script.

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