India Insight

Movie Review: Mary Kom

(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.”

A still from "Mary Kom"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.

Darshan Kumar says he is the hero of ‘Mary Kom’

darshanbhaiEven though he is not playing the lead in Mary Kom“, debutant actor Darshan Kumar calls himself the hero of the film.

Kumar plays Onler Kom, the on-screen husband of India’s best known female Olympic medallist – portrayed by Priyanka Chopra – and is on the lookout for “meaty” roles.

Conscious about whether his hair was in place and regretting that he didn’t put on some make-up, Kumar met me at a Gurgaon hotel to talk about Chopra and the film.

Representing Manipur: Priyanka Chopra on playing Mary Kom

Priyanka Chopra is not a Bollywood actor who waits around for assistants to mic her up, set a TV camera’s white balance and tell her where to look during an interview. When I met her on Tuesday at a posh hotel in Gurgaon, she used the paper I brought with my questions on it for the white balance, told the assistant how and where to set up the mic and opened a bottle of cough syrup, sparing the poor staffer who was struggling with it for her.

“I can get things done,” she said. Indeed, the latest evidence that the 32-year-old superstar is telling the truth is her portrayal of Mary Kom, the Olympic medallist and five-time World Amateur Boxing champion who comes from the far-flung state of Manipur in India’s northeast, an area that is far away from the heart of the country and home to many of its ethnic minorities.

The decision to cast Chopra in the role of Kom has led to accusations that the film’s producers preferred to go with a bankable star rather than another actor from Manipur or elsewhere in the northeast, and has prompted a new round of discussion about the nation’s marginalizing of people from this region. Chopra discussed this and other aspects of playing Kom in our interview.

Movie Review: Gunday

(The views expressed here do not represent those of Thomson Reuters)

Ali Abbas Zafar’s “Gunday” is a film set in the 1970’s and 80’s, amid the grime of the coal mafia. It is supposed to be a gritty film about two friends and their undying bond, which is broken when a girl enters their lives.

“Gunday” is a throwback to the cinema of the 70’s and 80’s when the wronged hero was still virtuous; the heroine was seductive but still coy; and the system was something you had to fight against to get what was rightfully yours. Director Zafar gives us a more polished version of those films.

Bikram (Ranveer Singh) and Bala (Arjun Kapoor) are friends who escape from Dhaka in the aftermath of the 1971 Bangladesh war and find themselves orphaned and homeless in Kolkata. They quickly discover there is money to be made in wagon-breaking — robbing coal from trains and selling it at subsidized prices in the market.

A Minute With: Ali Abbas Zafar on ‘Gunday’

Film-maker Ali Abbas Zafar made his Bollywood debut in 2011 with “Mere Brother Ki Dulhan”, a romantic comedy that was among the biggest hits that year.

For his second film as director, Zafar has switched genres to make what promises to be a dark and gritty 1970’s period film set in Kolkata about a pair of coal bandits and a cabaret dancer.

Gunday”, which opens in cinemas on Valentine’s Day, stars Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra in the lead roles. Zafar spoke to Reuters about the movie and the challenges of filming a period thriller.

Movie Review: Krrish 3

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Rakesh Roshan’s third film in the “Krrish” superhero franchise is the film you have been waiting for. It has world-class special effects, some brilliant acting, and a plot so gripping it will keep you entranced for two-and-a-half hours.

I am kidding, of course. There’s nothing of the sort in “Krrish 3”.

The tacky CGI animation — characters flying through walls and catching planes mid-air — reminds you of the special effects in Ramanand Sagar’s “Ramayan” television series two decades ago. Lead actor Hrithik Roshan twitches his facial muscles in his attempt to play an annoying old man, while flexing his biceps to play a younger avatar. And instead of a credible story, the plot of “Krrish 3” involves, among other things, a pen that captures the sun’s rays and brings the dead to life.

Hrithik Roshan does double duty here, playing ageing scientist Rohit Mehra and his son Krishna aka Krrish, who is married to Priya (Priyanka Chopra). All is going well till Kaal, a diabolical villain clearly inspired by Magneto from Hollywood’s X-Men series, makes an appearance.

Priyanka Chopra seeks her second touchdown with the NFL

Priyanka Chopra is not a household name in the United States, but the Bollywood actress and singer will try to change that on Thursday night when she kicks off the National Football League’s Thursday Night Football game with her single “In My City.”

In this case, the city will be Foxboro, Massachusetts, where the New England Patriots will play the New York Jets. While Chopra will be in Mumbai, heart of the Indian film industry, the NFL Network will broadcast a video of her singing the song against a backdrop of football players and sportscasters.

“The most important thing is exposure,” she said. “(It’s an) intro to who I am and what I do.”

Bollywood movie review: Zanjeer

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Everything is distorted in Apoorva Lakhia’s Zanjeer (Shackles), a modern-day version of the iconic 1973 action-thriller of the same name that gave Amitabh Bachchan his aura of Bollywood’s angry young man.

Inspector Vijay Khanna (played by Ram Charan) is not the brooding, intense young man of the original. The protagonist is now a sculpted statue that twists its face while expressing emotion.

Mala (played by Priyanka Chopra) is no longer the effervescent chakku chhuriyan street performer. She’s an irritating woman with too much make-up who gyrates to songs with offensive lyrics.

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