The best works of Anurag Kashyap, a man who has given us films such as Gangs of Wasseypur and Black Friday, normally have a political setting about them. In fact, the connection with contemporary politics is quite strong in his films. He fuses his gritty plots with these settings and then intermittently adds with it that is strong, coarse, and rough in equal measure to create an effect that can be called his signature tune, if you will. In his last few films – Raman Raghav and Ugly, which were more of dystopian dramatic works, this particular quality had been missing. However, with Mukkabaaz, Kashyap is back in his elements, so to speak. Here he shows the present day society complete with all its faults.
A melting pot
The film blends in a wide range of genres – romance and sports – and issues such as gender, caste, disability, and class to name a few to come up with a delectable fusion. In an era when Bollywood seems more intent on exploring fantastical subjects a director like Kashyap is crucial because of his ability to call a spade a spade. It also helps that he can situate the problematic issues in the proper context. This is what elevates Mukkabaaz from being a mere sports or boxing film.
Critiquing the society
Kashyap quite effectively criticizes the Indian society of today under the garb of a sports film. The story primarily deals with how Shravan, a boxer who hails from the lower caste, attempts to get even with his coach, who is well-connected and whose mute niece was incidentally his love of life. The film is full of gritty realism as may be expected from someone such as Kashyap. Here the characters use profanities galore and spit as well. They also hit punches that can actually hurt you. The songs also highlight the mood of the film even as the colloquial is mixed with the poetic.
The lead pair is decidedly great over here. Zoya Hussain is eloquent in her portrayal but in a fierce way. Vineet Kumar Singh is admirable in the way he sizzles in the central role. He is successful in convincing the audience that he could descend at any time to being a thug but he could polish his act just as well if he is afforded an opportunity to do so. The sound design used by Kashyap is a departure from the traditional pattern followed in Bollywood. This is also another factor that helps the film to such an extent. The supporting cast is really good too with Ravi Kishan standing out with his empathetic portrayal of Shravan’s coach.
Similarities with Gangs of Wasseypur
In many ways, Mukkabaaz evokes comparisons with Gangs of Wasseypur, which remains till date the most successful commercial venture of Kashyap. The film is brimming over with ideas and this can be said of each scene. In a sense, it attempts to hit a lot more targets than what it could realistically achieve given the limitations that it operates in. The narrative may seem to lack cohesion at times but its energy cannot be faulted at all. In fact, this is evident in the editing and camerawork as well. The appearance of Nawazuddin Siddiqui in an item song is a pleasant surprise too.