In the first scene itself, it was made clear that it’s a sensitive film yet over the due course it went on to entertain, Anurag Kashyap’s most commercial and formulaic film till date. I surrendered myself in the hands of a fine filmmaker having seen just the trailer and overheard the reviews at the Mumbai Film Festival exclaiming “commercial and formulaic” product, and right from the first scene I was taken aback. The film begins with two cow traders being forcefully entangled and lynched by a higher caste man for smuggling cows. And then the “beef” element becomes one of the prime stake in the story too. Also, the female protagonist is mute, who is termed to have “no box” in her throat by the rising boxer. There’s a critical angle to the muteness, it’s the society, it’s the females trapped in the patriarchal society and also it’s the caste system which are terrified and oppressed by power. And Kashyap explicitly portrays the symbolism having his signature over the film all the time. There’s even the romantic track which takes place when the protagonist is punching few guys as he falls in love.
Shravan Kumar Singh (Vineet Kumar Singh) is a lower caste boxer who struggles to make his mark in the boxing world, despite being oppressed by a Brahmin Bhagwan (Jimmy Shergill). While the self-aware story makes references to the epic Mahabharata, it is clearly and brilliantly derived from it. Well, Mahabharata is one story which is taught definitely while writing and Kashyap knocks it. With six writers penning the Screenplay, it is an engaging as well as a riveting melodrama. For me, the film worked outside the boxing ring because that’s damn relevant to the Indian happenings but I’m aware and full supportive of the ring which is used as a medium to punch down the power and caste system. Based on a true story, here, the protagonist doesn’t fight for his nation but for love and survival amidst the oppression.
“Mukkabaaz” which translates as “The Brawler” leaps forward than refraining itself into the fortress of subtlety. It works in layers – there’s a visual story, there’s a written story, there’s a boxing metaphor, character existence for symbolism and then there’s the propulsive soundtrack which uplifts the film. By the standards of a commercial film, this one steps beyond the qualms with excellency.
It may not be Anurag Kashyap’s best work but certainly noted for his impeccable direction. While it never ceases being just an entertainer and trying hard to achieve – it entertains throughout especially, the whistling and cheerful regional dialogues. Rajeev Ravi, Shanker Raman, Jay Patel and Jayesh Nair – the Cinematographers make the rooted film into a splendid visual treat being shot in quite an old school way. The razor-sharp editing by Aarti Bajaj and Ankit Bidyadhar propel the film and keep it engaging, look out for “Paintra” sequence.
Vineet Kumar Singh punches with his rigorous acting skills and never makes the screen dim. Jimmy Shergill gives him a tough fight in the acting ring for few scenes and the audience were literally in all-due-praise-of-him. Well, a great moment for the star after all these years. Zoya Hussain, last seen in “Teen Aur Aadha” (Kashyap signed her after watching it), is totally arresting. While Ravi Kishan and Shree Dhar Dubey lend a smashing support.
“Mukkabaaz” is an undoubtedly a formulaic film, but it punches the audience with politics, cow vigilantism, power, caste and shouts “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” (Hail Mother India) in a true nationalist sense.
Release: 12 January, 2018
Director: Anurag Kashyap
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