A deadly blow dealt by the underdog: Mukkabaaz Movie Review
Upon watching the opening scene of Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz, the audience quickly realizes that this movie will lock horns with several communal and political issues, and that it’s not going to shy away from showing things as they are. It opens with the scene of the lynching of Muslim cow traders, and what’s worse is that everybody is seen recording those men getting lynched while also forcing them to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’. This sets the tone for a film where the oppressed will constantly fight and rebel against the oppressors.
An unlikely cross between a boxing tale and a romance, this movie, based on a true story presents the audience with a striking social commentary of the politics of caste, sports, gender and the flaws in society’s various systems. It focuses on the plight of the lower caste middle class man Shravan, who wants to be a boxer. He has the talent, motivation and even the right body weight to become one, but in his way stands the local Don Bhagwandas Mishra, played by Jimmy Shergill, the textbook patriarchal oppressor who controls all the boxers who go on to play from the district of Bareilly.
By standing up to him and questioning his dictatorship, Shravan angers Bhagwandas, who swears that he’ll never let Shravan become a boxer. What’s more, our hero has even fallen in love with Bhagwandas’ Brahmin niece, which complicates the plot even further.
After squaring off with Bhagwandas, luck shines on Shravan as he meets a frustrated coach, tired of the mediocre talent around him. The coach, played masterfully by Ravi Kishan, also belongs to the lowest caste and has always harboured but never achieved the dream of becoming a true ‘mukkabaaz’. Both of them prove to be a deadly combination and soon Shravan wins his first tournament as a boxer and lands his first job in the Indian Railways. But even so, his journey is far from over as the threat of Bhagwandas still looms large and he must face him sooner or later.
Aided with a crisp soundtrack directed by DJ Nucleya, Rachit Arora and Divine, this movie draws it’s realism from the authenticity with which the actors have played their roles. Jimmy Shergill plays the perfect negative role, his sheer presence in the shot being enough to silence everybody. Zoya Hussian, a debutante, essays the role of mute Sunaina so expressively that not once does the audience feel a lack of her voice, and Vineet Kumar Singh, who actually trained to be a boxer for the movie, does justice to the role of a fearless underdog, Shravan, who will do anything to reach new heights.
At the end, Mukkabaaz is unflinchingly honest in it’s depictions of politics, corruption, discrimination, family disputes and that’s exactly what makes it such a major success. Indian cinema needs more movies like these and we hope that along with all the budding boxers, the budding filmmakers also get inspired to make such films.