Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumar, Sunil Thapa
Direction: Omung Kumar
First things first, loud applause for debutant director Omung Kumar – attempting a biopic on a boxing champion most of us had never heard of before her Summer Olympics bronze medal is worth plaudits.
Then again, you can see why Kumar chose Kom as his subject – her life reads like a film script, complete with early struggles, hard-won victories, personal conflicts, hard training, amazing comeback. The nuts and bolts of the story exist in Kom’s life, but it still needs a competent director to pull it all together into a cohesive narrative, and to his credit Kumar accomplishes that.
Priyanka Chopra plays Kom – and a large part of her performance relates to the science and art of boxing. Was the actress doing it right? Were her foot movements correct? Was her guard right? Did she carry off the one-two punches properly? I can’t vouch for any of that; I don’t watch boxing. What I can vouch for is that I found it impossible to take my eye off the screen: the story was paced right, the characters were convincing, Chopra played the protagonist to perfection, and it struck a chord in me.
The storyline is fairly linear. Mary Kom (Priyanka Chopra) is mercurial and impulsive; passion drives her to take to boxing. She is also a woman, and as a woman she falls in love, finds herself pregnant just when she can least afford to be, wants to be a mother but is also disappointed that motherhood is running her fitness and ability to box. And finally, she is a brave fighter who, rather than buckle under to the inevitable, trains twice as hard to make an impossible comeback, even as she struggles to fulfill the responsibilities of a mother.
It is this human side that adds weight to the story. Some onscreen moments stay with you - the feisty no-nonsense fighter blowing kisses to her new husband as he scores a goal on the football field; an anxious new mom’s reluctance as she keeps coming back to say goodbye to her twins before she leaves for her first professional trip; opportunist and vindictive federation officials in India who make it impossible for real sports talent to make it big.
Comparison with recent successful sports films like ‘Chak De’ and ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ are inevitable. And ‘Mary Kom’ is definitely in the same league – the songs, the emotions never interfere with the compact narrative.
I might be nitpicking here but the only cringe-worthy moment in this almost flawless story is the blatant product placement of Sugar Free and Iodex which, if it had to be done, could have been done far more subtly. Also, the twins seem to be hardly growing during the entire period that Mary Kom decides to return to professional boxing, trains and manages to win a medal.
These are however, minor blemishes. Omung Kumar’s ‘Mary Kom’ played commendably by Priyanka Chopra, gives us plenty to root for. Priyanka comes across as a natural in this role, as if she has never been anything but a boxer. You can’t help but smile when she compares herself to a cow, tired of continuously breastfeeding her newborns. Her acting is so convincing you end up rooting for her – just like the real life Mary Kom made even manipulative government officials rise to acknowledge her.
In the final scene, when I stood for the national anthem, I was moist-eyed with tears of pride, joy and vindication. If this film can evoke so many emotions, it is definitely a must watch.