(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)At a crucial point in Omung Kumar’s biopic of MC Mary Kom, the boxer’s husband urges her to get back to the sport after giving birth to their twin sons. He eggs her on to train while he handles household responsibilities and in one scene, tells his wife to have a glass of milk to gain strength. Mary Kom stops him right there and says, “Don’t add any sugar, I am going to use Sugar Free.”
Immediately, any empathy you were feeling for this character and her struggle is lost. Kumar’s retelling of one of India’s sports success stories is replete with such examples. Not only do they take away from the story’s authenticity, but also cheapen Mary Kom’s real-life struggle, reducing it to a hackneyed Bollywood script.
Mary Kom’s story starts from the time she’s an angry teenage schoolgirl picking fights with her classmates. She stumbles upon a boxing coaching centre and a coach who trains her. Kumar chronicles her rise on the boxing circuit, her love story with football coach Onler (played by Darshan Kumar), and her return to the ring after the birth of her twin sons.
Kumar takes cinematic liberties galore, but even those do not heighten the drama or increase your interest. Random incidents are strung together to form a story, but Kumar tries too hard to get the tear ducts flowing, resorting to gimmicks such as showing her son nearly dying while she is in the finals of the World Championship (this did not happen in real life).
The backdrop of Manipur, its long and troubled history with insurgency and the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) is completely neglected in “Mary Kom” – it could be taking place in any small town in India for all the context the director injects.