"Hum Pehla Dhaka Nahin Maare, hum pehla mukka nahin Jade"
From "Mukkabaaz" soundtrack , song sung by Sukhwinder Singh
Mukkabaaz's leading man Vineet Kumar Singh calls his father incompetent and good for nothing in the film. He balks at his father's plateaued career when he makes fun of his trophy which he won at a zonal level boxing tournament. This unsavoury duel is at the centre of Mukkabaaz which chronicles the state of India's sports in small towns.
The "Mendhak" and his rise
This film is not only about the romance, the action or victory of an underdog but the journey of a "Mendhak" (frog in Hindi) who is trying to jump over other "Mendhaks" in a cookie jar of sorts. I mean just look at the state of his life, he grows up in the lower end of the food chain in a rural town where he has to do ass licking of a once hot boxer turned local goon. Essentially his boxing is not the merit here but other activities. He lands up for a dame who is mute and can't express but is "ultra choosy" about the kind of man she wants. Life becomes a challenge for the fiesty Vineet as he takes on the local strongman Jimmy Shergill in a duel of sorts as he struggles to break the shackles to reach to the state level boxing competition in Uttar Pradesh
The Rocky Balboa Connection
Mukkabaaz in some ways reminds you of Rocky Balboa and his struggles with the society at large. Balboa coming in as a underdog from the projects townships of Philadelphia to win glory against all the odds. It is interesting to note that both Vineet and Rocky see themselves as reformers of sorts as they try to compete on the national and local level. The most fascinating part of Kashyap's writing is that he exposes the multi layered caste based population of Uttar Pradesh where money is hard to come by for the common folk and sports is not considered as a means of making a livelihood.
The state of boxing too is not rosy either with unknown brands pitching in as "sponsors" of the sport in the movie. On this backdrop Kashyap weaves a narrative of how it feels to earn basic rights in a society drenched in casteism. Dirty jails, dirty academies, corrupt and paunch bearing sports officials and widespread mental lethargy is what Vineet encounters.
The whole idea is that sports despite its over arching bosses and politics has the capacity to create heroes. Vineet's struggle is quite reminiscent of the "Mendhak in a cookie jar" theory. He has to hit Mukkas( punches) to his challenges. One of the major points to be pondered over the film is that family struggles in low income groups are not less dramatic as compared to family feuds of large business houses.
Ravi Kishan who plays the out of work coach for Vineet is a very interesting tool planted by Kashyap in the movie to create a parallel storyline. Kishan is actually a low caste fellow who himself was a failed boxer. In my view he is the one who pushes "The Mendhak" out of the cookie Jar as he trains Vineet about boxing. A favorite scene of mine is when Kishan explains Vineet about the difference between a "MUKKABAAZ" and a "Mukkebaaz"....
Usually the boxer movies talk about the personal and emotional journey to rise from the ashes. Mukkabaaz however exposes the malaise in the Indian sports federations. It also exposes the deep rooted caste system in the evolution of boxing as a sport. In a scene actor Jimmy Shergill asks Vineet to drink his urine if he wants to compete.
Actress Zoya Hussain looks stunning in the film as a mute. It actually reminded me of Sally Hawkins in "The Shape Of Water". She is mute and is vehemently suppressed by her Uncle who is actually Jimmy
Shergill and gets slapped regularly by him. Despite these depressive parts of her daily life, she comes out as an outgoing and demanding girl which is rare in Hindi movies. Hussain looks unapologetically sexy despite her condition and becomes the motivation of sorts for Vineet. In a way, Zoya is also a "Mendhak" who is trying to come up in life despite the suppressive world she lives in. It is this similarity which makes the story palatable.
"Mukkabaaz" fails to deliver beyond a point as the caste system narrative overpowers the journey of Vineet. Kashyap spends too much time on exposing this, so much so that it hampers the story telling.
Go and watch this movie for "The Mendhaks" and their world. You will love it then!