Mihir Vasavda follows boxer Mary Kom on one of her promotional tours for her upcoming eponymous biopic, and watches how real transforms into reel.
It’s a little less than an hour to go for the first big promo of her movie. Mary Kom is ready in her suite, waiting impatiently for it to begin as she goes through the script that has to be followed during the hour-long function over a quick meal.
Mary checks in at the venue a good three hours before the event; just like she does every time before stepping inside the ring. She is nervous. And she is tired after a long day of promotional events. “Bahut zyada ho raha hai…stress…mentally,” she says, sinking into the sofa in the lamp-lit room.
This has been a testing week for the London Olympics bronze medalist. With the suspense over the trials over next month’s Asian Games and her impending comeback hanging like a sword, Mary is finding it tough to focus on the ‘other’ stuff. Curious, she asks if the dates for the trials have been finalised. Not a word on it yet, you inform her. She shakes her head. “Too much stress,” she repeats.
But tonight, this can wait. A designer cocktail dress, neatly braided hair and a touch of make-up, she is looking very much unlike the Mary we’ve seen and known for all these years. Contrary to her bubbly self, she carefully chooses every word and speaks ever-so-softly.
Eleven floors below, at the dimly-lit lobby, there’s sudden activity. The reel-life Mary Kom has just arrived at the hotel with the rest of her entourage. Unlike the real Mary Kom, who quietly sneaked into the hotel, Priyanka Chopra is greeted with garlands and is quickly whisked into the waiting elevator to her suite. Priyanka, on the other hand, arrives looking rugged. She dons a black track suit and hair is tied in a loose bun, much like Mary while entering the ring for her bout.
It’s quite a role reversal. You make a mental note: Perhaps, that’s how the duo will be for the fortnight leading up to the release of the movie.
Sports biopics have largely been an unexplored genre in Indian cinema. And typical of Bollywood dramas, there’s ample showboating and goofy bits of business. Of the two that were successful, Paan Singh Tomar was more about the dacoit than the sportsman and even though Milkha Singh was the hero of the over-the-top Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the film’s crux centred more on the brutal era of Partition.
The need to introduce drama into a sportsperson’s story just to ‘connect’ to a larger audience explains the reason why we struggle to understand the inherent drama of sport. There’s a fine line between keeping it continued…