There really is something about Mary Kom – both the amazing athlete and the film itself. Whilst the film may take dramatic liberties when portraying Magnificent Mary’s life, there is no mistaking the sincere attempt to capture the determination, hard grit and inspiring journey Mary has undertaken and is still traveling on. Anyone expecting a factually correct film will be disappointed – Mary Kom is a commercial offering and makes no bones about this. Unfortunately, as a consequence, there are some clunky dialogues, lots of flashback (in the first half at least), and lapses into melodrama that weaken the story, plus the product placement ridden second half soon turned into a spot the sponsor competition.
But thankfully, there are some fantastic scenes on hand too which grip the viewer’s attention and effortlessly segue the drama and inspiration together. I liked the scene where Mary is forced to choose between boxing and her father or her frustration of having to leave her career in her prime so that she can also pursue the dream of having a family. I also liked how the film worked hard to maintain a neutral voice throughout – Mary is never judged or questioned and even her anger which simmers throughout is shown with sympathy. A little delving deeper into Mary’s psyche would have been interesting as there is a lot to consider under the surface – racism, sexism, as well as the challenges faced by professional athletes in India.
There are fantastic performances from Thapa and Kumar, who demonstrate different shades of masculinity with conviction and stealth – they are never over the top or too forced which makes a superb base for Chopra’s central role. Speaking of which, Chopra is wonderful, making both the physical and emotional aspects of the role believable and effortlessly carrying the film on her own merit. With a strong central performance, Chopra’s lack of vanity is refreshing and essential to understanding this part. When the script and Chopra’s performance converge, which is frequently, we have a very watchable film on hand here.
Yes, Mary Kom could have worked more on its screenplay and perhaps narrowed its selection of moments from Mary’s life but the assured speed with which the action moves forward suggests that the source material is incredibly rich and that focusing too long on any one strand would have been to the detriment of the film as a whole. Still, Mary Kom as a sports biopic seems to sit comfortably in between Paan Singh Tomar and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag which is no bad place to be – any more compromise and it would have perhaps dropped off the radar. There is definitely something about this Mary Kom – a sweeping account maybe but one that is full of spirit and punch.