Director: Anurag Kashyap
Starring: Vineet Kumar Singh, Zoya Hussain, Jimmy Shergill, Ravi Kishan, Sadhana Singh
Rating: ** and a half
When the film is froth with lines like “Jab boxing pe film banti hain, toh 40,000 log dekhne aate hain. Lekin tournament rakho, toh 40 log bhi nahin aate”, you know that Anurag Kashyap is back!
After being accused of getting stuck with style and grandeur in Bombay Velvet and repeating himself in Raman Raghav 2.0, Anurag returns to safe ground with Mukkabaaz, doing what he does best. This small-town story of a boxer presents the filmmaker’s trademark wit and grit along with introducing a promising new face — Zoya Hussain.
With much anxiety and nervousness, Anurag welcomed the packed audience at Liberty Cinema to the Asian premiere of his film. Mukkabaaz was the opening film at the 19th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star. The writer-director-producer revealed that he had gone back to his desi roots with this one. After Gangs of Wasseypur, he has revisited his home state Uttar Pradesh for yet another exposé.
Set in Bareilly, Mukkabaaz narrates the true story of an aspiring boxer. Shravan (Vineet Kumar Singh) dreams of becoming a recognised boxer and does whatever it takes to achieve that dream.
Apart from rigorous training, a small-town sportsperson’s main duty in India is to be at the disposal of the influential lot. Hence, Shravan buys groceries and is an efficient handyman of the head of the State Boxing Federation, Bhagwandas Mishra (Jimmy Shergill).
All is well until cupid strikes and Shravan, a Rajput, falls for Bhagwandas’ mute niece (Zoya Hussain) who is a Brahmin. What more, Shravan decides to train under an ‘untouchable’ coach (Ravi Kishan) for the National Boxing Championship. A clash of classes ensues and the ugly heads of nepotism, doping and religious fanaticism create havoc.
Mukkabaaz is not as much of a sports film as it is a love story. Boxing is an integral part of the storyline but at the crux of it, the film highlights the sacrificial nature of love. The intense and raw chemistry between Vineet and Zoya does full justice to this romance. Zoya as the mute girl, delivers a power-packed performance. Jimmy as the evil guy (with creepy contact lenses) and Ravi as the righteous untouchable are impactful in their brief roles too. Vineet has been a regular in Anurag films but this is his first as the lead. He makes for a convincing boxer and does a good job of carrying the film on his shoulders.
Despite touching upon the dark issues that run deep in the heartlands of the country, Mukkabaaz is a fairly entertaining film. Anurag balances the occasional gore with some sharp and witty writing.
The music is a sure shot winner too, both in the writing and composing departments. Don’t go expecting a hard-hitting film. This one’s no eye-opener either. Anurag plays it very safe this time around and decides to be a softie for a change.