‘Mary Kom’ review: Film gets bloated by extraneous songs

'Mary Kom' is biopic which starts with the caveat `based on the life incidents of’ immediately makes you suspicious.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi | Updated: September 7, 2014 11:47 am
Priyanka Chopra's Mary Kom review. Priyanka Chopra’s Mary Kom review.

Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumar, Sunil Thapa
Director: Omung Kumar
Rating: **1/2

A biopic which starts with the caveat `based on the life incidents of’ immediately makes you suspicious. Why not just say : ‘based on the life of’? Is it because too many cinematic liberties have been taken in the telling? In other words, is ‘Mary Kom’ really the story of Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, the champion boxer from Manipur, who’s done India proud? Or is it just another heavily-embroidered Bollywood movie?

After a point it doesn’t matter, and that’s where ‘Mary Kom’ the movie makes the cut. Priyanka Chopra who plays Kom, does a good job of getting into the part. You can see her striving for rustic chic, which contrasts with sudden svelteness. You can hear her accent slipping. In places, you can see the overhang of Hollywood boxing movies, more ‘Rocky’ than ‘ Raging Bull’. Despite these things, Priyanka Chopra hooks a mean left, and makes me root for Mary Kom, champion boxer, wife and mother.

That’s half the battle won, and it is the crucial one. Because this film shows us just how tough it is for mainstream Bollywood to make a good, gritty sports bio-pic. A boxer, regardless of gender, gets bruised and bloody in the ring. Bones are crunched. It is a magnificent sport, its ugly folds hiding its beauty. Chopra’s ugliness and bloodiness is carefully done : it’s only as much as the filmmakers think we can handle without making us wince. Still, it’s something.

Mary Kom’s coach, played by Sunil Thapa, has the right burly physique for a pugilist. But Thapa is made to play him a tad filmi and broad : all the big life lessons Kom learns are delivered by him. `I lub boxing’, she says. `You have to give your life to it’, he replies, sonorously. And you flashback to the marvelously real Clint Eastwood as coach to Hillary Swank in ‘Million Dollar Baby’, another underdog female boxer film.

The best man in Kom’s life is her husband, nicely underplayed by Darshan Kumar. Behind every successful woman there may be a man, and that man, in Kom’s life, is not her taciturn ‘coach sir’, but her amazingly supportive spouse. Again, to see such a liberated ‘man’ makes you wonder if truly such a creature exists, or has he been made so for the sake of the movie?

Whatever, the message that goes out via their relationship is a worthy one : mothers are people first, and they do not need to give up on their dreams if they have the right partner. A scene has two men holding the two babies, and another message goes out : a father can be a perfectly competent parent, too.

The film gets bloated by extraneous songs. In its zeal to tell us how Kom is also a committed mom ( to an adorable set of twins , one of whom gets very sick) as well as a sportsperson, it tries too hard to tug at our heartstrings. And the climactic sequence goes on and on : a duel in the ring is automatically exciting, needing no schmaltzy revving up. There are also too-blatant product placements strewn right through, which distract from the story.

What it gets right is the kind of churlishness and mean-minded partisanship Indian sporting federations are beset by : the men ( and they are overwhelmingly men) who run it are not oriented towards the benefit of the players. Kom’s taking on one such official is a pointer : this is exactly how it happens, and that’s why there aren’t more champions in the country.

And it also gets right the main act : Mary Kom, inspirational world champion, shaking a glove.

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  1. D
    Aug 10, 2015 at 9:51 pm
    I am mother of twin boys from Malaysia, looking at how Mary kom and husband struggle to take care off the twins I can connect how they feel ( career, kids, dream). And the struggle to be back into a career that is physically demanding is not easy,too the mental and spiritual too. Well-done for making people see husband's support is important in life. Good job for moving away from cliche Bollywood scenes and this one is making people facing reality more real.
    1. B
      Bollywood Scanner
      Sep 7, 2014 at 9:11 am
      One of the worst movies in recent times. I was so disappointed that I almost left the theatre in the first 1 hour. A movie with such exceptional storyline requires a matching set of actors and a director who can live upto the contnt. Unfortunately,this movie is marred by bad acting from all the cast without any exception and a director who seems to have lost his grip on the storyline. He simply failed to focus on the right areas.The songs were badly timed and very boring.For me, a huge movie fan, this movie was a complete let down.
      1. Anuj Srivastava
        Sep 5, 2014 at 5:50 pm
        I agree and disagree with the reviewer... actually Bhaag Milkha bhaag has set a standard which mary kom could not achieve... check my review :blogtobollywood/mar...
        1. c
          cjshekhar .
          Sep 5, 2014 at 11:39 am
          Not impressed with Priyanka or the Movie, just average..
          1. C
            Chirag Shah
            Sep 10, 2014 at 11:27 am
            You do realize what a critics job is, right? It's meant to judge a film on both the content and technical elements......Yes, as an audience you may enjoy this film. Critics reviews are not always meant to be for the audience.....For example, could you, a common film buff, tell the difference between good editing and bad editing? Or good cinematography and bad cinematography? Or bad sound design and good sound design? Even those are art forms and a critic looks at EVERYTHING.Yeah, perhaps this film was decent in relative terms when bollywood churns out films like "Humshakals" and "Heropanti", but is that really our standard now just because a majority of films happen to be completely ridiculous/pathetic? Also, the star rating are also in relative terms...Now look at it this way...For example when we have a few BRILLIANT films in the country, does this film (Mary Kom) deserve more than 2.5 stars. Here are examples of good films that deserve 3-5 stars:The Lunch BoxShip Of TheseusPaan Singh TomarKahaaniBhaag Mikha BaagGangs Of Weypur 1 and 2QueenNow when you look at those film, now think....Does Mary Kom deserve more than 2.5, relatively speaking... a country that has also given us Lagaan and Rang De Basanti and the clic mother india....No...I don't think so....
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