Film Review: 'Mary Kom'
Opened: 5 September 2014
Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Sunil Thapa, Darshan Kumar, Rajni Basumatary, Zachary Coffin, Shishir Sharma
Director: Omung Kumar
Producer: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Whether Priyanka Chopra looks like boxing champion Mary Kom or not is completely irrelevant. Did Ben Kingsley, a Caucasian male mind, look like Gandhi? Was Hugh Jackman as short as Wolverine was projected in the original comics? Did Leonardo Di Caprio look like Jordan Belfort in The Wolf Of Wall Street? No. But that never took away from their memorable performances and that's exactly what's happened here.
Leaving aside her dodgy accent and questionable make up in a few close ups, the fact that PC's given the part her all and simply rocks in a career best performance will make you overlook some very glaring cinematic liberties that debutant director Omung Kumar and producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali have taken here. It's an act that deserves all the accolades that may come her way and stays with you long after the show's over, and is in fact the prime reason for watching this biopic.
Loosely based on the life of five-time World Amateur Boxing champion, Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom (played with dexterity by Priyanka), also known as 'Magnificent Mary, the film gives you a glimpse into the various aspects of the boxer's life – right from her initial poverty and determination to succeed in the ring, to standing up against a corrupt Indian boxing federation, peppered with elements of her subsequent marriage to Onler Kom (played with impeccable precision by newcomer Darshan Kumar). The film also explores Kom's strained relationship with her father and her meteoric rise in the ring with the help of 'coach sir' (Nepalese actor Sunil Thapa) and her comeback into the sport after a two year break.
At a taut two hours, Mary Kom never bores and remains consistently engrossing throughout and isn't a bad attempt by Omung Kumar, but I found parts of it incredibly gimmicky and sensationalised and that's where it stumbles somewhat.
Issues like Manipur's political ostracisation, or Mary Kom's poverty and subsequent angst and rise in the field are merely skimmed upon and its these parts that perhaps needed to be fleshed out a tad.
Blemishes aside, what saves the film from being a substandard bore is its cast. Everything you've heard about Priyanka's awe inspiring, astounding performance as the no nonsense boxer is true. She manages to be ferocious, resilient, passionate and vulnerable and dares to perhaps go where no actress before her has dared to venture, largely salvaging Mary Kom from the depths of mediocrity. In fact, she's so good in the film I overheard someone in the audience saying how they wanted to hand her an award right there. Hear hear.
To be fair, it's not just Priyanka that wins us over though. Darshan Kumar is quite the find and chips in an earnest, heart felt act as Mary's pillar of strength, while Sunil Thapa as her no nonsense, endearing coach hits all the right notes in his limited part.
The music of the film never hinders or interferes with its plot and is soothing albeit forgettable, while its action sequences deftly choreographed by Rob Miller, leave an impact and appear authentic, except perhaps the one in the climax which I felt was unnecessarily interspersed with drama which should have been done away with entirely.
I'm going with three stars for Mary Kom. It's enjoyable and gains incredible momentum in its second half, but had the potential to be a great film not just a decent one, and is largely let down by excessive melodrama in parts (trademark Bhansali of course), unnecessary product placements and an insipid screenplay especially in the first half. That said, its almost cinematic gold compared to the crap we're subject to week in week out, and undoubtedly worth a viewing not just for Priyanka's stellar, goose bump inducing performance, but for a glimpse into the inspiring life of a champion who's accomplishments have until now, remained largely uncelebrated outside the Indian subcontinent.