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Mukkabaaz  : Packs A Punch
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Friday, January 12, 2018
Anurag Kashyap
Zoya Hussain, Ravi Kishan, Jimmy Shergill, Vineet Kumar Singh

Anurag Kashyap is back on home turf, in his element in the Hindi heartland of UP. The blows of hardy boxers begin with grit as young Shravan Kumar stands up to guru Bhagwandas Mishraand lands one on his nose. ‘We’re here to train as boxers. Not to cut onions and tomatoes and do your household chores,” he protests. Shravan is beaten to a pulp and blacklisted by Bhagwandas who has the clout to ensure that this impetuousMike Tyson-in-the-making never gets a bout.


Red-eyed like a Ramsay monster, Bhagwandas is the quintessential rustic villain, a law unto himself who moves around with henchmen and subjugates everybody, includingGopaldas, his older brother. And he’s out to make life hell for Shravan. Worse, Bhagwandas’ mute niece Sunaina has fallen in love with the boxer who dared to confront her wicked uncle. The only time her meek father speaks up and goes against his younger brother is when he gives his blessings to Shravan and Sunaina.Bhagwandas’ revenge on his own brother’s family and Shravan in particular peaks.


It’s Bhagwandas’ ruthlessness versus Shravan’s hot-headedness all the way.


Inspired by true-life events in UP, Anurag and his writers give it the rawness associated with the filmmaker. Hard, brassy dialogues where words like moothna and hagna are as generously used as the sign language. There’s humour too in that earthiness, and tenderness as the romance brews. But Shravan has to brawl more than box on most occasions.


Marriage is the beginning of fights on more fronts for Shravan as he has bouts with corruption, casteism, favouritism and the famous culture of having to face humiliation from those in power. The railway job he lands through the sports quota is unreasonably demeaning, his training for the nationals in danger of being compromised.Bhagwandas is unrelenting in damaging him and Sunaina has her demands.Somewhere in this, Sunaina comes off as unfeeling, unwilling to live in peace with anybody.  


But even in its unchecked rawness, it is well-crafted. Anurag uses music interestingly. An effervescent ‘Hathapaayi’ number jauntily follows Shravan as he’s chased by Bhagwandas and his henchmen with flying fists and blows raining hard. All this while Sunaina watches silently from the terrace and falls in love with him. Many battles later, when Shravan is picked up and backed by retired boxer Sanjay Kumar willing to stand his ground before the dreaded Bhagwandas, Anurag gets an unknown young boy to do a frenetic breakdance almost in rhythm to the practice routine. At another time, boxing bouts in the ring go on while a wedding band belts out its music. A semi-classical score is used when Shravan goes in search of his missing wife.


But Anurag also overdoes it, in fact he overcooks it. At 155 minutes, the frequent songs and the attempt to punch out at every unfair practice in the world, stretchesthe screenplay that doesn’t know when to cry halt.


The rural rawness is also not everybody’s palate, so I’d say that this is a well-made film for places where caste reigns supreme and the well-connected can commit any atrocity with impunity.


Mukesh Chhabra’s casting is in sync with Anurag’s requirements. Vineet Kumar puts in a physically gruelling performance as Shravan, his body stretched beyond endurance. Zoya Hussain as silent but strong Sunaina is refreshingly pleasing. Ravi Kishen as the boxer who takes Shravan under his wing is adequate while Jimmy Shergill as powerful antagonist Bhagwandas manages menace with his presence alone. Nawazuddin Siddiqui peps it up in yet another song number. 


For a well-made but overlong film that’ll excite single screens and the interiors more than the elite, Mukkabaaz gets a 3* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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