Magazine article Screen International

Mary Kom

Magazine article Screen International

Mary Kom

Article excerpt

Dir: Omung Kumar. India. 2014. 120mins

An Indian boxing drama that follows the sports-movie template a little too slavishly, Mary Kom has its share of likeable predictability, but this true story of a world champion female prizefighter gets bogged down in its emphasis on emotional overkill. Making his directorial debut, Omung Kumar seeks to do little more than send his audience on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, in the process losing the nuance of his main character whom, one suspects, was probably more interesting than this formulaic movie suggests.

Mary Kom can still be sufficiently rousing in its training and boxing scenes. Kumar is an art director, and he brings that talent to the film's most music-video-like sequences, giving the viewer plenty of kinetic eye-candy.

Playing at the Toronto Film Festival before opening in India September 5, Mary Kom will be boosted by the presence of star Priyanka Chopra in the title role. And international audiences who may not be familiar with the particulars of Kom's story could nonetheless be engaged by this underdog tale. (Anyone who's seen a boxing movie will recognise Mary Kom's Rocky­-like narrative contours.)

The film focuses on approximately eight years in the life of a young woman from Manipur named Chungneijang (Chopra). Although teased by some, she has loved boxing since childhood, and after meeting Singh (Sunil Thapa), a respected boxing coach who runs a popular gym, she is convinced that she wants to be a fighter. As she rises up the ranks and becomes a champion, she also finds love in the form of her long-time friend Onler (Darshan Kumaar), but Singh warns her that marriage will distract her from athletic glory.

As with many sports movies before it, Mary Kom dutifully charts the course of an unlikely dreamer who succeeds thanks to hard work, determination and a wise-but-gruff coach. (Singh gives Chungneijang the boxing name Mary Kom because it's shorter.) To be fair, Kumar's film does have its novel twists on the genre. (For instance, Mary's struggle to reclaim her championship title after having twins and experiencing profound changes to her body are challenges no male athlete has to face.) But these potentially intriguing aspects to Mary's story have been beaten down and reshaped until they all fit too smoothly into the programmatic narrative.

As a result, Mary Kom never really investigates the woman whose life gives the movie its name. …

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