Sunday, July 21, 2024



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FILM: Mary Kom
Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumar, Zachary Coffin…
DIRECTOR: Omung Kumar

It’s that life-defining moment when a character on screen transforms totally into a real life personality. We’ve seen Seema Biswas, Ben Kingsley and Farhan Akhtar metamorphose into real life characters in front of our bewildered eyes.
Now it is Priyanka Chopra. She virtually transforms her physicality before entering the spirit and the soul of boxing champ Mary Kom (MC).
And what a grand entry!
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Priyanka as the gritty volatile boxer from Manipur who won’t take no for an answer, even from god.
Penetrating a male domain like boxing in a gender-defying swoop, Priyanka’s MC takes us on a voyage of self-discovery where a plucky poor girl from rural Manipur goes right to the Olympics. It’s an incredible story filled with sound and fury signifying something deep and seductive, just waiting to be told.
Hats off to debutant director Omung Kumar for bringing us one of the most inspiring biopics to have ever reached the silver screen.
“Mujhe bronze pasand nahin aata,” barks MC’s coach. As we see Mary’s dreams come true in front of our eyes, we know she was born to win.
The narrative has a soaring quality and texture. It simply takes off with scarcely any room for breathing space. The breathless quality of storytelling goes well with the protagonist’s stormy mercurial nature.
As MC’ story unravels in a flashback we meet a woman who is not affected by gender rules and discrimination that governs our society.
Very early in the tightly clenched narrative, we see MC get into a full-fledged scuffle with a school bully. Later she takes on another far more dangerous bully who threatens to destroy her boxing career. In and out of the arena Mary never stops fighting.
“The rest of the world may be round. But your world is this square ring,” her coach reminds her pointing to the boxing arena.
The struggle, as depicted in the stunning unspoilt northeastern terrain of Manipur, captured with mesmeric intensity by cinematographer Keiko Nakahara, is manifold. Here it is a curse to be born a girl. And to be born a girl who wants to be a boxing champ!
You have to be kidding.
Admirably the narrative doesn’t over-sentimentalise MC’s struggle. This is “Mother India” without the glycerine and melodrama. As played by Priyanka, MC is both gritty and giggly, plucky and precocious, a ferocious fighter and a tender mother.
Priyanka expresses every shade of her character with a pitch-perfect bravado. Her northeastern accent could easily have become caricatural. The actress controls curbs and quantifies every component of her character’s personality without losing that basic element of spontaneity without which Mary would have become mechanical.
I dare any other actress to play MC the way Priyanka has. Even Hilary Swank would have been stumped by MC’S mystical mix of the girlish and the aggressive. Priyanka gets the point.
My favourite sequences are the ones where MC shares tender marital moments with her husband. If it’s vital for a career woman to get a supportive husband, it is equally essential for a film starring a female hero to have a co-actor who can play yin to her yang. Newcomer Darshan Kumar suffuses the screen with such supreme spousal sensitivity. He is a talent to watch.
Predictably enough a lot of the opposition to MC’s dreams is shown to come from within her home. The skirmishes between MC and her father (Robin Das) and MC’s gender battle with the slimy executive of the boxing federation (played with diabolic relish by Shakti Singh) are exceptionally filmy’, and I use that word in the truest cinematic sense.
The picturesque narrative, the richly flavoured music composed by Shashi Suman and Shivum (watch out for the poignant lullaby sung by Priyanka), the rapid fire editing, the framing of the shimmering shots and the incredibly aesthetic use of rich colours bear the unmistakable stamp of producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who is billed as Creative Director.
“Mary Kom” is a motivational masterpiece. From first frame to last it grips your senses and irrigates the parched corridors of your heart like very few biopics in recent times. Kumar weaves seamlessly in and out of Mary’s remarkable life creating a work that is as dramatic as Mehboob Khan’s “Mother India” and as inspiring as Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi”.
Priyanka’s powerhouse performance knocks the breath out of our solar plexus. She yet again proves herself the best actress of her generation.
Hereafter there will be an eternal confusion about whose face goes on the hoardings announcing Mary Kom’s boxing events. (IANS)

FILM: Life of Crime
Cast: John Hawkes, Yasiin Bey, Jennifer Aniston …
DIRECTOR: Daniel Schechter

If you’re expecting a heavy duty, crime-laden, back alley action film, this is not it. Set in 1978 in Detroit, Life of Crime is an intriguing suspense story about a set of small-time criminals who kidnap the wife of a well-to-do estate developer and demand a million dollar ransom for her release. Louis (John Hawkes), along with his partner Ordell (Yasiin Bey), after discovering some of the financial secrets of Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins), a real estate magnate, decide to kidnap his trophy wife Mickey (Jennifer Aniston) when he goes on a trip to The Freeport, Bahamas.
The kidnapping is interrupted by the unexpected visit of Marshall (Will Forte), a family friend of the Dawsons, who shows up with the intention of having sex with Mickey.
The inept criminals after dealing with Marshall hold her captive in the home of one of their creepy friend, Richard (Mark Boone Jr.), a neo-Nazi with a peeping-tom problem. Now on tenterhooks, they tell Mickey, “We don’t know Marshall and what he has got to lose. But we wonder if he would stick his neck for you.” And truly he does not. Soon, hoping to extort the ransom, they call Frank and threaten him to pay the ransom or “you’ll never see your wife again”. But to their surprise, they learn that he has filed for divorce and is going to marry Melanie (Isla Fisher), a younger and sexy woman who has her own agenda.
As expected, “Life of Crime” ends with a surprise alliance that makes perfect sense of random justice.
Treated as a black-comedy drama, writer-director Daniel Schechter maintains a perfect pulse of humour and suspense, balancing this character-driven caper story with spunky performances by Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes, Yasin Bey, Tim Robbins, Mark Boone Jr and Isla Fisher.
There’s a fine chemistry between each characters but the script does not give them enough space to explore the depth of their relationships, making the entire effort a superficial ‘sitcom-ish’ farce. The period of the late 1970s is well captured, with good production values and authentic background score. Unfortunately, this faithful adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1978 released novel “The Switch”, which in turn has been inspired by O’ Henry’s 1907 published short story – “The Ransom of Red Chief”, has been beaten to the punch by the similar cultural tropes seen in earlier films like Too Many Crooks, Ruthless People, The Ref or Hostile Hostages. (IANS)


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