[***1/2 stars / *****]
Mukkabaaz is easily Anurag Kashyap's most accessible mass audience social satire.
No abuses, no harrowing violence, less brutality, a less tragic ending. Happily, for us cinema-seekers, it is never a compromised film.
A low caste boxer, UP's "Mike Tyson" Shravan Kumar (Vineet Kumar Singh) is bullied to not competing in any major district bouts by his high caste employer Bhagwan Das Mishra (Jimmy Shergill). Shravan revolts and pays the price for following his passion and falling for Mishra's niece Suniana (Zoya Hussian). Shravan is supported by a low caste coach Sanjay Kumar (Ravi Kishan), but it is a dark road ahead.
The love story is pitched for popular appeal, Kashyap builds on the premise to masterfully reveal India's languishing sports administration and doomed sportspersons.
Unconventional as Always
Never forceful, always relevant, Mukkabaaz touches more than a nerve with raw humor, gritty drama, and an almost heartbreaking end.
Kashyap revels in reflecting contemporary truths, nobody tells it as straight as he does. Be it the caste system, corruption, murderous gau rakshaks ('cow protectors'), a passionate boxer's harrowing life, he lands the right punches, almost every time.
Inspired, Courageous Acting
A huge applause for Vineet Singh's earnest boxer portrayal, Zoya Hussain's turn as a spirited mute girl and a terrific, understated Ravi Kishan as the coach.
Jimmy Shergill ends up as a one-note villain because the writers give him little to work on. The hint that his angst arouses from an unfulfilled sporting ambition is not convincing enough.
Excess use of the film's soundtrack in scenes where silence would have worked better mitigates the intended impact. A trimmer film would have hit a lot harder.
But apart from these niggles, Mukkabaaz is very watchable for its story, screenplay, and damn good, heartfelt, stark real performances.
Mukkabaaz is worth the punches and more at the cinemas this week.