Since time immemorial in houses of cinema across the globe a specific place has been designated for biopics. Over the years cinegoers have come to agree that a biopic maker’s first duty is to the soul of the film, the person who is being brought to life onscreen. However, simultaneously the makers have an undeniable duty to the audience to deliver an engaging piece of cinema that invokes feelings that your average release will not. Omung Kumar’s directorial debut, Mary Kom, does the former with a lot of conviction and the latter with not as much.
The film many a times succumbs to the Bollywood norms of melodrama and clichéd treatment of scenes and situations. But at the same time it boasts of a performance by Priyanka Chopra that is anything but a cliched depiction of an athlete. It is a performance that will no doubt go down in history as one of the finest we’ve seen from a leading actress. She is as uninhibited and raw as you would hope one would be in such a role. There’s no reluctance to immerse into the world of M C Mary Kom. She brings out the innocence of the young Mary as well as the inherent strengths with amazing confidence and ease. Her performance is perhaps the only reason you disregard the shortcomings of those who are behind the camera.
Unfortunately, Chopra is not backed up by as powerful performances. It is safe to say that the story of successful persons is not just their story; it is also the story of all those who make that person who they are. In Mary Kom in particular that is her husband, because had it not been for his support she would not have made the smashing comeback she did. (And it is this very journey of a comeback that set this biopic apart from many others we have seen). Darshan Kumar while impressive in lighter sequences does not convince in the more serious portions of the film. More importantly, the depth of Onler and Mary’s relationship and strength of a man who stands by his wife so confidently is very superficially explored by the writers. Their love story is given a very average ‘chick-flick’-esque treatment and the intricacy of the relationship, which is a core contributor to Mary’s journey, is left unexplored.
Therefore the film ends up looking like quite a lonely journey of both the onscreen and off-screen Mary Koms. Priyanka looks lonely onscreen doing all the hard work with very little to react off of. At the same time Mary Kom’s story similarly comes across as very secluded from the rest of the world and this is simply because writer’s did not spend the energy in developing and exploring the characters around her.
Saiwyn Quadras screenplay, however, does pack a few punches (pun intended) and is probably the second highlight after Priyanka’s performance in the film. After Rakeysh Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’s screening time I knew one thing and that was that I did not want to be sitting in a cinema hall for more than 3 hours. Thankfully Mary Kom does no such thing. It is far more succinct than one would have expected. Sure there is the unnecessary melodrama such as Mary’s encounter with the government authority official to submit her apology, a scene which seems to be out of a Hindi serial almost. The climax portion also is predictably melodramatic and leads the film to a rather abrupt ending. However, barring these few sequences, the screenplay on the whole manages to be quite tight.
Whilst promoting the film the maker’s justify Priyanka’s casting as a commercial decision to ensure such an iconic story does not go unseen. However after seeing the film it is fair to say that had it not been for such an incredible performance we would have spent far more time pointing at more faults and holes in the story than celebrating Mary’s achievements. PC’s performance is so true to Mary’s spirit that you forget that technicalities of the performance (looks, accent etc which lack consistency throughout the film) are sometimes not perfect or that the writing for a particular sequence is not up to the mark.
On the whole Omung’s debut as a biopic was a quite the challenging task but he handles the genre reasonably well. As with any biopic great casting means half the job may just be done and in this case getting Priyanka right is what made the film work.