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Mukkabaaz Movie Review: It  Does A Successful Raging Bull!




Starring Vineet Kumar, Zoya Hussain, Jimmy Sheirgill, Ravi Kissan

Directed  by Anurag Kashyap

Rating: ****(4 stars)

Really, we couldn’t hope for a  better start to our movie-going spree in 2018. Mukkabaaz  is many things at the same time . To begin with it is…no, it  not  just an  ode to pugilism. It is an ode to that thing called love.

Mukkabaaz is  Anurag Kashyap’s most romantic  film to date.It’s  about, believe  it or not, love at  first sight when Bareilly’s self-proclaimed  Mike Tyson, a . k.a Shravan Singh(Vineet Singh, startling in his transformation  into a ferocious fighter)   happens to seeSunaina(newcomer Zoya Hussain,expressive in her silences).

  The sequence  where Shravan falls in love brilliantly yokes violence and tenderness, and sets  the  pace  for what is to follow.  This is  a film steeped in the   ethos of  ethnicity, immersed in the culture  of caste  and gender prejudices. But it’s  not as bereft of hope and humour as one would  think Kashyap’s milieu of mofussil mayhem  would be. This is a mellower  more sensitive world, a world of love  and  compassion in  a universe of corruption and  debauchery.

 The  smalltown setting is chilling in its bold undertones  of violence.Kashyap’s Bareilly(as we come to know the setting to be) is  run by a glorified goon Bhagwan Das Mishra(Jimmy Sheirgill)    a sadistic patron-saint , who  early   in the narrative asks the  local Tyson to  drink his urine from  a bottle, “like holy water”.We never know whether  Shravan actually performs the offensive act of subservience. The film’s anxious editors(Arati Bajaj, AnkitBidyadhar) cut away from the  sordid sequence of subjugation .

 But knowing Shravan we  can easily conclude  he would never eat shit,  or drink pee. This is  a boy-man on  a mission to prove  to  the world and his disapproving father , that boxing is not a soft option but a hard career decision.

In the film’s most powerfully acted  episode Shravan hits back hard at his father’s contemptuous reading of  his son’s ambitions, taunting the older man for achieving so little in life. It’s a scene of abject filial cruelty performed with such guilt and hurt by Vineet Kumar , that a potentially stereotypical  father-son confrontation scene acquires a towering personality denoting the  entire gamut  of conflicts that  go into the aspirations of one generation as they are passed  on to another.

Son says ,father has  no respect for his passion. Father thins son is talking   about ‘fashion’. It’s a silly confusion , that hides the larger growing tensions simmering in small towns where youngsters  want to make something of their  lives.But what????

Linguistic  confusion plays a major part in driving the plot forward. The actor Shree Dhar Dubey who plays the hero’s buddy insists   on using smatterings of angrezi in his conversations. A conceit that  infuriates our Shravan.

Elsewhere  cow vigilantes are  busy, for no particular reason,  thrashing  a suspect while someone  films the brutality on   a phone. In the smalltown fables  of  Kashyap and his ilk  of  directors mofussildirectors,  video recordings on  phone are indicative  of  how roughlyhewn technology is into every day life. Our hero roughs up hiscasteist  senior at his workplace  .When the man wets himself in fearShravan gleefully films  the man’s humiliation . It’s not  just villains who expose their dirty subconscious.

The dialogues and situations are pronouncedly scatological , as they are wont to be in a  Kashyap  film. But the  tone changes oh-so-delicately when Shravan is around  the love of his life. Balancing between bouts of boxing  brutality and  episodes of unfettered tenderness Mukkabaaz is Anurag Kashyap’s  most vividly written and  fluidly  executed film since the underrated Dev D.

The  performances  are so powerful you fear they  would outdistance   the director’s mastery  over the  patois of  mayhem, and  none more powerful than Vineet Kumar in a career-making role and performance that compares favourably with Robert de Niro’s boxer’s shots in Martin Scorcese’s  Raging  Bull.

 Not that Kashyap is Scorcese. Heavens, no!  Kashyap is on a trip of his own, tripping cheekily over the live wires that are thrown all over  the bleak brutal and wounded  landscape  of his films. And it’s not justVineet Kumar who comes forward with a performance that defines the director’s quenchless thirst for searching out the  violence that underlines life lived on the fringes. Ravi Kissan and Jimmy Sheirgillare rqually superb  in  their roles as the coach and the ganglord.These are  actors who know the culture  of  caste and gender politics. They feel the throbbing veins of  violence.

As  the narrative progresses  it acquires  the  personality of  a tightly-wound entity coiling and recoiling  into shapes of tenderness and  venom.Mukkabaaz is a different  more balanced and  less unsettled beast than any  film Kashyap has made.  While all his recent films portrayed the dark ugly sinister  underbelly  of mofussil  existence this time , just this  once, the director has allowed  himself to explore the  tricky relationship between love and violence with gentle care. This is  the director’s  most sensitive  film to date. It hits a hard punch. And not just in the  boxing ring.

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