There is no doubt that world champion boxer and mother MC Mary Kom story is compelling. But like many Indian biopics of living heroes, the Omung Kumar directed film is more of a superficial hagiography than a balanced and insightful story of this village girl’s big dreams and bigger achievements.
In the hands of producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Omung Kumar, with Priyanka Chopra cast as the diminutive Manipuri pugilist, ‘Mary Kom’ is, unfortunately, more about the pout than the bout. And it culminates with a deliberate melodramatic climax that literally interprets and forcibly juxtaposes her struggles as a boxer with her struggles as a mother.
Pre-interval the film goes backwards and forwards in time, recounting Mary’s rise to world champion, combating conservative prejudices, her romance with Onler Kom, marriage, motherhood et al. Singular scenes pay lip service to all the situations she and other sportspersons endure – corruption in the Federation, prejudice against the North Eastern states, gender bias, harassment etc. Inexplicably, only the Federation bureaucrats are depicted as caricatures. A running theme of unrest in Manipur as a backdrop to the story remains unexplained.
The screenplay by Saiwyn Qadras barely scratches the surface and the dialogues by Ramendra Vasishth and Karan Singh Rathore seesaw between collegian and Bollywood theatrical. The supporting cast bolsters the film somewhat saving it from becoming totally prosaic.
The boot camp montage cut to a song in the second half is reminiscent of ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’. The fight scenes were far better executed and tension built up in Sanjay Puran Singh’s ‘Lahore’. There is little emphasis on the sport and Mary’s skills or strategy; she’s just the ‘phighter’ who ‘lubs boxing’ and hits people in a ring. But Robert Miller’s boxing choreography coupled with Chopra’s immersion into the part make the hooks and dives, punches and knockouts visually involving.
Though fewer scenes of her weeping at the drop of a pin would have been welcome, kudos to Priyanka Chopra for giving the role her all and even agreeing to be over-decorated with freckles. She packs a punch and makes this film about Magnificent Mary – with all its flaws — watchable.
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