Rating : Excellent (5/5)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 35 minutes
Director : Anurag Kashyap
Cast : Vineet Kumar Singh, Jimmy Shergill, Zoya Hussain, Ravi Kishan, Sadhana Singh
Kid rating : PG-15
Shravan Singh (Singh) is an up and coming young boxer from Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. Things take a turn for the worse, when he picks a fight with Bhagwan Das Mishra (Shergill), local goon and state boxing federation head honcho. Further complications arise when Shravan falls in love with Sunaina (Hussain), Mishra’s mute niece, and Sunaina reciprocates, much to her uncle’s chagrin. Besides the professional enmity, there is also the caste divide; Sunaina is Brahmin, while Shravan Rajput, and Mishra, the fervent casteist, will never abide the match.
Mukkabaaz is Kashyap’s film-making at its finest, a rough, grubby, of-the-heartland story told with modern sensibilities and finesse. Kashyap’s world view is raw and searing, the violence graphic and detailed, the emotions strong. No sugar-coating here. The film thus is fast-moving and pretty intense, right from the beginning, as we become privy to Shravan’s first altercation with Mishra. Shravan is soundly beaten up by Mishra’s chelas, as Sunaina looks on from the rooftop of her uncle’s home.
The movie develops into a classic underdog-vs-the-world story, as Shravan, a lowly newbie boxer, fights against Mishra, the systemic corruption, and the bureaucracy. Kashyap takes broad aim at a number of societal ills like casteism, corruption, crime, political meddling in state-funded sports, and the subjugation of women. The wonderful thing here is that all this is beautifully blended into the story, and allows for a realistic look at it all. Mishra can not only make it impossible for Shraven to compete as a boxer, he can also use his political clout and the dysfunctional Indian bureacracy to cut off water and electricity to his home. Thus, Shravan has not one enemy, but many, and battles on multiple fronts.
Mukkabaaz is the film it is also because of its wonderful actors. You might have seen Vineet Kumar Singh in films like Shorts and Bombay Talkies. This is his big break as hero, and does he make it work! He also trained really hard for the role, and it shows in his fighting fitness and 6-pack abs. The female lead, Zoya Hussain, who debuts here, is also very good. She has not a single line of dialog, but more than makes up for it with her acting prowess. Jimmy Shergill plays villain Mishra, and does surprisingly well, considering he’s got a suave-nice-guy-face which doesn’t quite lend itself to the portrayal of the rustic crudeness of Mishra’s character. Yesteryear actress Sadhana Singh (Nadiya Ke Paar) plays Sunaina’s mother with great aplomb. Ravi Kisshen, as always (Welcome to Sajjanpur, Tanu Weds Manu), is marvelous.
A large part of the film is shot in the boxing ring, but tight editing and a masterful screenplay ensure that we remain engrossed. Mukkabaaz also features vernacular-sounds songs, which add to the rustic charm of the film. Ultimately though, it is Kashyap’s ability to create realistic characters who exude drama, emotion and outrage, unabashed, and whom we can root for, that make Mukkabaaz one of the best films of the year.
If you see one Hindi film this year, let it be this one.
Kidwise: Several adult situations, graphic violence and some hairy language make Mukkabaaz unsuitable for a younger audience.