I came to know of the first major film of Bollywood to be released in 2018, MUKKABAAZ, only on the day of its release. The title translates as “The Brawler”, and apart from the fact that I hadn’t seen a single movie in the last three weeks (The last one was TIGER ZINDA HAI, which was so tepid despite the good action scenes that I didn’t feel like penning a review), what got my attention was that Anand Rai, Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap featured amongst the producers of MUKKABAAZ. All the three have been associated with good productions like RAANJHAANA, TANU WEDS MANU, HAPPY BHAG JAAYEGI, MASAAN, HASEE TO PHASEE, UDDTA PANJAB and TRAPPED. All these movies are devoid of glamour of the conventional kind; in addition Anurag Kashyap wielding the megaphone indicated that this would be a “dark” movie with liberal usage of expletives and shots which to the “refined” viewer would appear to be gory and even repulsive. But then, MUKKABAAZ was never meant to be a movie designed to showcase the “better” India nor was it meant to attract FDI to Bareilly or Benaras.
Instead, it was meant to be a raw depiction of the caste tainted bureaucracy in the small towns of Uttar Pradesh and how its influence in the local sporting federations muffles talent. Based on real life incidents, MUKKABAAZ, about a backward caste person wanting to become a boxer also addresses the issues of an inter-caste love story. And it does that not by a series of sobbing episodes, but by delivering punch (MUKKA) after punch in its 155 minutes length. Punches yield blood and bruises; these are not very pleasant to look at on the screen, but they are very, very real.
Heading the star cast is Jimmy Shergill, a favourite of Anand Rai and who did so well as the “tame” villain, who loses out to the hero in the TANU WEDS MANU series and HAPPY BHAG JAAYEGI. But this time around, Jimmy plays Bhagwandas Misra, who is evil personified and who is just plain ugly in his machinations. And lending him brilliant support is Vineet Kumar Singh, playing the young boxer Shravan who crosses swords with Bhagwandas; also debutant Zoya Hussain, who plays Sunaina, Shravan’s love interest. Zoya’s character is mute, and therefore she has to convey all her feelings through expressions, which she does admirably. Her mute character also is perhaps representative of the plight of women in such surroundings, whose voice just is not heard.
In this raw depiction, there is no room for make-up, either for the actors or the sets. The lanes of Bareilly and Benares are not made up to look good; they are just shown as they are. Anand Rai’s movies have always had “slapping” episodes; in this too, he seems to have persuaded his director Anurag Kashyap to have a few slapping sequences in the middle of all those punches! Anurag doesn’t seem to have spared the opportunity to hit hard against “the cow and anti-beef” brigade as well.
MUKKABAAZ certainly delivers what it was expected to deliver: a forceful punch; and if this is the harbinger of Bollywood productions in 2018, I must say it augurs well!
RATING: 4 out of 5
January 13th, 2018