Banners: Phantom Films, Colour Yellow Productions
Producers: Aanand L Rai, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena, Anurag Kashyap
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Vineet Kumar Singh, Jimmy Sheirgill, Zoya Hussain, Ravi Kishan
Writers: Anurag Kashyap, Vineet Kumar Singh, Mukti Singh Srinet, KD Satyam, Ranjan Chandel, Prasoon Mishra
Music: Nucleya, Rachita Arora
As a producer, filmmaker Aanand L Rai has consistently been delivering good commercial cinema for a while. So when, for his latest production venture Mukkabaaz, Rai brought Anurag Kashyap on board as director, it was a decision that surprised many as the two filmmakers have very contrasting approaches to cinema.
But, as they say, opposites attract, an adage that couldn’t be more true of Mukkabaaz. This film is a full-on commercial entertainer but what gives it an edge over other ventures in this genre are the brilliant performances from every actor. In short, this movie is the result of the perfect script blended with spot-on picturisation and bravura performances. It doesn’t get better than this!
The film is about a braveheart from Uttar Pradesh who dares to dream, loves beyond limits and refuses to succumb to social conventions. The film opens to a scene where local goons are thrashing a victim of caste discrimination. To make sure they drive home their message, these ruthless thugs record the violence on camera, so that they can spread their message – that anyone who defies social mores will meet a similar fate.
But aspiring boxer Shravan (Vineet Kumar Singh) from Bareilly is not one to be cowed down by bullies. Shravan slogs day and night to achieve his dream of becoming a recognised boxer. But the harder he practices, the greater his pain because he repeatedly comes up against Bhagwandas Mishra (Jimmy Sheirgill), an ex-boxer and head of the boxing federation, who believes that caste-based hierarchy, not talent, decides a sportsman’s fate.
Shackled to his fate, Shravan is forced to lug gunny sacks on Mishra’s property and sometimes massage the latter’s feet. In time, Shravan notices Sunaina (Zoya Hussain), a mute girl who is – you guessed it! – Mishra’s niece. Unwilling to be thwarted any longer, the amateur boxer has had enough. One day, in the heat of the moment, he lashes out at Mishra and punches him squarely in the face, leaving him with a nose bleed. Predictably, Mishra vows to ruin him.
Shravan, a lower-caste, penniless boxer is more determined than ever to take on Mishra, which includes the latter’s disapproval of his love for Sunaina. Mishra resorts to every means possible to torture the young boxer, from thwarting him in the sports selection procedure to asking Shravan to drink his urine in return for a berth in the National games.
Refusing to let Mishra break his spirit, Shravan moves to Banaras and finds a new coach, Sanjay Kumar (Ravi Kishan), a Dalit, who inspires him to win the battle of life. Shravan’s initial win inside the ring helps him get a job in the Indian Railways, in the sports quota. In the meantime, his courtship with Sunaina continues. But for how long?
Mukkabaaz is the product of as many as six writers – Anurag Kashyap, Vineet Kumar Singh, Mukti Singh Srinet, K D Satyam, Ranjan Chandel and Prasoon Mishra – but it seems they were all in sync with each other. Kudos to them for writing an almost flawless script and also to its director, Anurag Kashyap, who shot it with equal brilliance.
Apart from script, direction and superlative performances, the film’s music is another ace. The music is in perfect sync with the script, with the lyrics of all the songs mocking the corrupt caste system. Mushkil hai apna mel priye by Brijesh Shandilya talks about the perils of an upper-lower caste love story. Paintra by DJ Nucleya stands out and is set against the ghats of Banaras.
This is a make-or-break film for Vineet Kumar Singh, who is no novice to the Hindi film industry. But this is the first time he is playing the lead and it is clear that he’s given it all he’s got. It would be an understatement to say that he’s top-notch. Singh lives and breathes his character. Here’s wishing this talented actor all the very best for his career.
Debutante Zoya Hussain’s twinkling eyes and engaging persona, despite her character’s disability, is a treat to watch. Once again, Jimmy Sheirgill’s pompous Brahmin character essayed to exude untamed vendetta, will make the audience hate him a little more. He’s slayed it! As always, he’s OUTSTANDING. Ravi Kishan is first-rate. The others lend adequate support.
Verdict: A winner for sure!