Mukkabaaz chronicles the journey of Shravan Singh (Vineet Kumar Singh), a passionate Boxer from Bareilly who unwittingly gets into a scuffle with the local don Bhagwan Das Mishra (Jimmy Shergill) who also controls the Boxing selections of the city. Mishra who used to be a boxer in his time now runs a gym where he subjects his students to slave-like treatment and runs the Boxing Federation as if it was his patriarchal property. Shravan is deeply in love with Bhagwan’s mute niece Sunaina (Zoya Hussain) and his scuffle with Mishra only complicates their union. The rest of the film is about how Shravan balances his boxing, his bad blood with Bhagwan and his love for Sunaina.
Mukkabaaz isn’t a sports film. The boxing is only a part of the whole flavor of the film. It is as much a love story as it is an underdog story as it is a social commentary on the racism, caste biases, intolerance and the worthy not getting what they deserve because of a few rich and powerful people. The film is 156 minutes long and it had to equally and interestingly balance all the varied elements if it had to make a semblance of an impact on the viewers and have an interesting screenplay to entice the audience with. With Anurag Kashyap at the helm, the film is able to pull it off more or less successfully. I was still left with some nagging issues and I will get to those in a bit.
The film is laced with brilliant performances. Every actor delivers a captivating and brilliant act that successfully elevates the material at hand to greater heights and transcends the viewer to the midst of the narrative. Vineet has been around for some films now and we know that he is a natural. Being made to play a character that is close to his comfort zone, he excels. He is not only likable but totally believable. I saw a few YouTube videos showing his training and transformation and I have to say that every drop of sweat that he has shed in preparation for this role has found its way into his performance. This wasn’t a transformation for flexing his six packs in an item number but to become the Boxer that he plays and it shows.
Zoya Hussain as Shravan’s love interest is great. She is the focal point of the whole story and some of the most tense moments of the film occur because of her. It is because she so easily makes us love her character that we have our heart in our mouth when she is in a semblance of danger. Her chemistry with Vineet is natural and you take them for what their characters are. Jimmy Shergill is hateable as Bhagwan Das Mishra. I wanted him to be pummeled beyond recognition. That’s the kind of reaction his character extracts and hence, one has to give due credits to Shergill who plays the baddie with clinical ease.
The film doesn’t have too many action sequences but the ones that are there are done so with organic physicality. The boxing matches are filmed and edited beautifully giving you a feeling of being in the real deal. The final action sequences not involving a boxing match is done with gusto too. Vineet has undergone such a transformation and has taken to boxing in such a manner that it’s not hard to take him in as the man that he plays. He breathes life into the action sequences with his brilliant portrayal. The film gets really tense at certain junctures and these sequences are masterfully built up. It will serve as one of the high points of the film. There are also some really funny sequences wherein the comedy is extracted from the mundane and real-life situations. I adored these sequences.
Having said all that, I arrive at my issues with the film. This is an Anurag Kashyap film and I had very high expectations of it which I believe were not completely met. This is in many ways the mass-iest film of Anurag Kashyap. Gone are the thematic elements, the intricacies and above all the heightened drama. This is a straightforward tale of a man who has to excel in boxing to win his love fighting the feudal system and a feudal lord. That is hardly material enough for an Anurag Kashyap film. The many many songs work as a stickler from time to time.
Even though the songs are terrific and are an eclectic mix of local melodies, they do nothing to forward the tale and only hasten the pace. The film moves at a leisurely pace too that can make many restless. I didn’t particularly like the ending of the film. It didn’t offer complete closure to the kind of buildup that the film was teasing us with. However, the fact that it claims to be based on true events, made me take it to be how the actual story ended and was done with it. Still, it could have been done better.
Overall, Mukkabaaz is an entertaining watch that is laced with brilliant performances, superb action and some tense moments. But if you are walking in with misplaced expectations then you are bound to be disappointed. Approach it as a generic Bollywood masala film and you will get more than you bargained for. But if you walk into it expecting a breakthrough film like “Gangs of Wasseypur” you will be disappointed. Mukkabaaz is for the masses and it is bound to leave a grin on your face as you walk out of the theater.
Rating: 3/5 Stars (3 out of 5 Stars)