Forget the real life of Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom while watching Mary Kom, the movie inspired by her achievements in the boxing ring in the backdrop of the hardships she had to face to arrive at the world sports scene. A creative licence of the kind that shows the pugilist, in a state of pregnancy, walking through a rainy, curfew-imposed night, or the kind that shows her getting the news of her son’s ill-health just before a world championship bout, is necessary drama. Also never mind that the dusky Priyanka Chopra does not look Mongoloid. Should the film have included a bit of Dingko Singh, the boxer who had inspired real-life Mary? A filmmaker’s choice or right to fiddle with the true story ought to be exercised to draw the crowds to the theatre.
Mary Kom belongs to the genre of films whose absence disappointed the connoisseurs of parallel cinema that died in the 1980s — realistic but no less dramatic than commercial cinema. Thankfully, now the genre, enjoying a sizeable audience, will live and thrive amid crass Bollywood flicks, with makers of the latter now under market pressure to keep their plots plausible if not outright real.
The film’s camera work bring back memories of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Khamoshi — the type he sacrificed for flamboyance thereafter — though he is a co-producer and not the director of the movie. Director Omung Kumar, aided remarkably by cinematographer Keiko Nakahara, makes it more realistic with his sombre lighting of the sets that were actually located in and around Manali, Himachal Pradesh. Saiwyn Quadras spins a believable but engrossing story around the central character.
Chopra gives a credible performance, considering she not only hails from the commercial school of thought but is also expected to come up with a different kind of histrionics in the frequently made films that have her in the cast. She successfully portrays the grit that one associates with the protagonist of the story. Her put-on Manipuri accent replete with masculinised Hindi and bilabial aspirated plosives is tolerable, as it was dialogue writers Karan Singh Rathore and Ramendra Vashishth’s department.
Thanks to casting directors Shruti Mahajan and Parag Mehta, the actors who look the parts they play turn out to be good actors as well. Sunil Thapa as M Narjit Singh behaves as coach-like as Darshan Kumar comes across as the caring husband Onler. With smaller but significant roles, Robin Das as Mary Kom’s father and Shakti Sinha as sports official Sharma impress; the second evokes enough spite from the audience that the character of a freeloading bureaucrat called for.
The plot need not be described as it is a dramatised version of a life described in the media after the boxer brought the country international laurels. This is a film one shouldn’t miss watching at the theatre, with a series of festivals and national holidays coming up in this part of the year.