It’s that life-defining moment when a character on screen transforms totally into a real-life personality. We’ve seen Seema Biswas, Ben Kingsley and Farhan Akhtar metamorphose into real-life characters in front of our bewildered eyes.
Now it is Priyanka Chopra. She virtually transforms her physicality before entering the spirit and the soul of boxing champ Mary Kom.
And what a grand entry!
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Priyanka Chopra as the gritting volatile boxer from Manipur who won’t take no for an answer, even from God. Penetrating a male domain like boxing in a gender-defying swoop, Pryinka’s MC takes us on a voyage of self-discovery where a plucky poor girl from rural Manipur goes right to the Olympics. It’s an incredible story filled with sound and fury signifying something deep and seductive, just waiting to be told.
Hats off to debutant director Omang Kumar for bringing us one of the most inspiring bio-pics to have ever reached the silver screen.
“Mujhe bronze pasand nahin aata,” barks MC’s coach (played by the well-cast Sunil Thapa). As we see Mary’s dreams come true in front of our eyes we know she was born to ‘wing’. The narrative has a soaring quality and texture. It simply takes off with scarcely any room for breathing space. The breathless quality of storytelling goes well with the protagonist’s stormy mercurial nature. As Mary’s story unravels in a flashback we meet a woman who is so not affected by gender rules and discrimination that governs our society.
Very early in the tightly clenched narrative we see Mary get into a full-fledged scuffle with a school bully. Later she takes on another far more dangerous bully who threatens to destroy her boxing career. In and out of the arena Mary never stops fighting.
“The rest of the world may be round. But your world is this square ring,” her coach reminds her pointing to the boxing arena. The struggle, as depicted in the stunning unspoilt North-Eastern terrain of Manipur, captured with mesmeric intensity by cinematographer Keiko Nakahara, is manifold. Here it is a curse to be born a girl. And to be born a girl who wants to be a boxing champ???!!!
You have to be kidding.
Admirably the narrative doesn’t over-sentimentalize Mary’s struggle. This is Mother India without the glycerin and melodrama. As played by Priyanka, Mary is both gritty and giggly, plucky and precocious, a ferocious fighter and a tender mother. Priyanka expresses every shade of her character with a pitch-perfect bravado. Her North Eastern accent could easily have become caricatural. The actress controls curbs and quantifies every component of her character’s personality without losing that basic element of spontaneity without which Mary would have become mechanical.
I dare any other actress to play Mary Kom the way Priyanka has. Even Hilary Swank would have been stumped by Mary’s mystical mix of the girlish and the aggressive. Priyanka gets the point.
My favourite sequences are the ones where Mary shares tender marital moments with her husband. If it’s vital for a career woman to get a supportive husband it is equally essential for a film starring a female hero to have a co-actor who can play yin to her yang. Newcomer Darshan Kumar suffuses the screen with such supreme spousal sensitivity. He is a talent to watch.
Predictably enough a lot of the opposition to Mary’s dreams is shown to come from within her home. The skirmishes between Mary and her father (Robin Das) and Mary’s gender battle with the slimy executive of the boxing federation (played with diabolic relish by Shakti Singh) are exceptionally ‘filmy’, and I use that word in the truest cinematic sense. The picturesque narrative, the richly flavoured music composed by Shashi Suman and Shivum (watch out for the poignant lullaby sung by Priyanka Chopra), the rapid-fire editing, the framing of the shimmering shots and the incredibly aesthetic use of rich colours bear the unmistakable stamp of producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali who is billed as ‘Creative Director.’
Mary Kom is a motivational masterpiece. From first frame to last it grips your senses and irrigates the parched corridors of your heart like very few bio-pics in recent times. Debutant director Omang Kumar weaves seamlessly in and out of Ms Kom’s remarkable life creating a work that is as dramatic as Mehboob’s Mother India and as inspiring as Attenborough’s Gandhi.
Priyanka Chopra’s powerhouse performance knocks the breath out of our solar plexus .She yet again proves herself the best actress of her generation.
Hereafter there will be an eternal confusion about whose face goes on the hoardings announcing Mary Kom’s boxing events.
PC or MC?