Mary Kom: A ringside view

Priyanka Chopra in and as Mary Kom  

Genre: Biopic

Director: Omung Kumar

Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumar,Sunil Thapa

World champions are as rare in Indian sports as biopics in Hindi cinema. Debutant director Omung Kumar tries to correct the anomaly by bringing the exploits of five-time World Amateur Boxing champion and Olympic medallist M C Mary Kom and makes a good fist of the eventful life of this feisty girl from a remote village in Manipur who excels in a sport considered to be male domain without shedding her gender identity.

She wears gloves on manicured hands and considers nail paint as every woman’s birth right.

She grapples with the obstacles not as a wannabe male but as a daughter and as a mother.

A headstrong girl who picks fights with local boys, Mary (Priyanka Chopra) finds direction under the tutelage of coach M. Narjit Singh (Sunil Thapa is persistently grumpy) and gathers composure in the company of Onler (Dharam Kumar) despite strong opposition from her father. When she punches her way to the top, Cupid strikes and she gets married to Onler. This time, the opposition comes from her coach but Mary goes with her heart and embraces motherhood. Soon she begins to miss her core identity and Onler ensures that she returns to the ring and he takes care of home. It is not that easy but then, nothing is. Mary and Onler are an incredible example of modern-day Indian couple and Omung ensures that their romance shines through not through song routines but in their understated commitment to each other.

Unlike Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra, who brought Milkha Singh to screen last year, Omung doesn’t overtly dramatize the scenario and keeps the creative licence in check. He focuses on the making of Mary by staying true to the timelines. The bouts look believable and the fast intercutting ensures that the layman doesn’t get the luxury to see through the loopholes.

However, he has a star eager to act and plenty of brands endorsements to justify. In the process, Omung, who is better known as a production designer of producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films, ends up offering a simple motivational tale where he has taken the universal certificate of CBFC literally. The bandhs and blockade which have become part of everyday life in Manipur are only touched with a barge pole.

And their impact on Mary’s life is glossed over. For instance, there is no mention of her father-in-law’s murder. Also the fact that sporting glory and gory violence exist side by side in that region doesn’t interest Omung.

Shot far from Imphal — in Manali and Dharamshala, the regional details, the accent and the rural milieu, have been toned down for a pan Indian appeal.

Writer Saiwyn Qadras doesn’t care to share with us what makes Mary special in the ring. Priyanka’s presence ensures that Mary’s opponents are crafted as sheer cardboards. He does bring the regional bias and nepotism prevalent in sports administration into play but his expansive punches don’t result in scoring points and off and on make Mary’s struggle look rather one-sided on screen.

However, if the ring side view is all you want, there is enough to keep you engaged. The moments between Mary and her father and the unsaid chemistry between Onler and Mary are moving largely due to Priyanka, who is the tour de force of this loosely assembled vehicle. She gets the measure of the emotional depth of the character and when it comes to the foot work and the upper cut, Priyanka jabs at her ravishing image with impunity. She comes pretty close to Mary in her demeanour as she shares her fondness for nail paint and sense of dressing and generates the energy required for the role. Providing a safety net, Omung hasn’t surrounded her with actors from the North East — Dharam is a Delhi boy — and it ensures that she doesn’t come across as the odd one out after the first few scenes and pummels the cardboards placed around her with ease.

>Sudhish Kamat's review of Mary Kom

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 5:13:05 PM |

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