Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumaar
Director: Omung Kumar
Rating: 2.5 stars
Biopics are always tricky. They follow a predictable graph, telling the story of a legend that has already been much talked about. How then to still tell a story and make it count? There’s no doubt Magnificent Mary’s story needed to be told. A girl from a forgotten village in Manipur, growing up in a misogynist society and wanting, of all things, to become a boxing champ — director Omung Kumar had golden material to work with. And his leading lady Priyanka Chopra shows just why she was meant to play the part of the Olympic champion.
But must all biopics try to be tearjerkers? When the truth itself has so much drama in it, is there need for more in the screenplay? Mary Kom, the film makes you ponder on these points. The story follows a non-linear narrative where the editing is unfortunately choppy. It’s a shame because the film is so beautifully shot. The visuals befit the grandeur of a biopic. Be it the milieu of rural Manipur or the aggression in a boxing ring, cinematographer Keiko Nakahara astutely captures it all. Now if only the script and the editing was fine-tuned enough.
The film is rich in insights though, into the lives of forgotten champions. At the peak of her career Mary gets married and before long becomes a mother of twins. Her boxing career seems to have had its curtain call. To support her family, she tries to look for a job and we see a three-time gold medallist getting offered the job of a hawaldar. Then there’s another scene where a little girl who wants to grow up to be “Mary Kom” doesn’t recognise her idol sitting right in front of her. Subtle touches showing how Mary’s name lives on even as her face is forgotten.
The finesse in treatment, however, is not a constant. Mary’s struggle with her family, especially her father is seeped in melodrama. Even her interactions with the federation head, played by a little too menacing Shakti Singh, seem overdone. The director’s need to create extra drama in these scenes seems conspicuous and hence dilutes the intensity of the scenes.
It is Priyanka’s spirited portrayal of the pugilist that makes it possible to ignore the flaws in craft. You may not like the painted freckles or the flawed prosthetic nose, but it’s hard to point a finger at her performance. Right from the body language of a boxer, to her mercurial temperament, her vulnerability and the fight within her, PC brings alive the living legend. If the real Mary Kom gave her all to be the boxer she wanted to be, Priyanka does no less to become Mary Kom. The accent is suspect, and that’s perhaps the only thing one might hold against her.
The review wouldn’t be complete without a few words for newcomer Darshan Kumaar who plays Mary’s husband Onler. If Mary is the champion inside the boxing ring, Onler is the superstar off it. And Darshan brings just the right amount of sensitivity to the part. It’s a marvel how he underplays himself next to a superstar (PC) just like the real Onler does in Mary’s life. He also seems to have got the diction right unlike his other co-stars, which makes him a natural fit for the role.
True, the performances from the lead pair largely fill the gaps in the story telling, but then a biopic relies heavily on the director’s craft, which in this case fails to impress. There are flashes of brilliance, yes, but on the whole Mary Kom fails to dazzle.