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Mukkabaaz

Mukkabaaz
Mukkabaaz poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnurag Kashyap
Produced byAanand L. Rai
Vikramaditya Motwane
Madhu Mantena
Anurag Kashyap
Written byAnurag Kashyap
Vineet Kumar Singh
Mukti Singh Srinet
K.D.Satyam
Ranjan Chandel
Prasoon Mishra
StarringVineet Kumar Singh
Zoya Hussain
Jimmy Sheirgill
Ravi Kishan
Music byScore:
Prashant Pillai
Songs:
Nucleya
Rachita Arora
CinematographyRajeev Ravi
Shanker Raman
Jay Patel
Jayesh Nair
Edited byAarti Bajaj
Ankit Bidyadhar
Production
company
Distributed byEros International
Release date
  • 9 September 2017 (2017-09-09) (TIFF)
  • 12 January 2018 (2018-01-12) (India)
Running time
155 minutes
CountryIndia
LanguageHindi
Box office₹10.51 crore[1]

Mukkabaaz (English: The Brawler; Hindi pronunciation: [mʊkkaːbaːz]) is a 2017 Indian sports drama film co-written, co-produced and directed by Anurag Kashyap. Jointly produced by Aanand L. Rai under his label Colour Yellow Productions and Phantom Films, the film stars Vineet Kumar Singh, debutant Zoya Hussain, Ravi Kishan and Jimmy Shergill in the lead roles. It follows Shravan Kumar (Singh), an aspiring boxer, who falls in love with the niece of the boxing federation head, Bhagwan Das Mishra (Shergill). Kashyap, Singh, Mukti Singh Srinet, K.D.Satyam, Ranjan Chandel and Prasoon Mishra wrote the script. Aarti Bajaj and Ankit Bidyadhar edited the film, while Shanker Raman, Rajeev Ravi and Jayesh Nair served as the directors of photography.

Mukkabaaz was conceived by Singh, who wrote it with his sister Mukti Singh, based on his observations of several sportspersons' experiences in India. Several producers rejected it until Kashyap agreed to make the film if Singh would become a real boxer. To prepare, Singh went to the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, where he trained in boxing for a year. Hussain learned non-verbal communication from a sign language expert for her role.

Mukkabaaz premiered in the Special Presentations section at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and was also screened at the 2017 Mumbai Film Festival. It was released theatrically in India on 12 January 2018 and received mostly positive reviews, with particular praise for Singh's performance. The film grossed 10.51 crore (US$1.5 million) at the box office.

Plot

Shravan Singh is a struggling boxer who works for a local politician and head of the State Boxing Federation, Bhagwan Das Mishra. He drifts away after Mishra has him perform only domestic tasks and errands rather than boxing training. Singh falls in love with Mishra's niece, Sunaina, who is mute. Her father tells him to get a job first before thinking about marrying her. For the job, Singh tries to enter the state-level tournament but is not selected because of Mishra. He then goes to Varanasi and is trained by Sanjay Kumar.

Singh defeats Mishra's boxer and wins a medal, after which he gets a job with the Indian Railways. Singh and Sunaina are married as her father promised. However, Mishra despises the marriage and threatens his brother. Singh tries to balance his job, training, family life and learning sign language at Sunaina's request. Meanwhile, his boss at the office tries to harass him by putting too much work pressure on him. Mishra gets Sunaina's father fired from his job and expels her family from their home. They go to their ancestral village to live but are held captive by Mishra's goons in his village house. Mishra also breaks his brother's leg.

Later, at Sanjay Kumar's house, both Kumar and Singh are attacked by a mob after being falsely accused of eating beef. Kumar is seriously injured in the attack and is admitted to an ICU; Singh survives the attack. He then tries to find Sunaina but fails; meanwhile, she is forcefully engaged by Mishra to a businessman with a disability, for money. Singh fights and qualifies for the final of a national tournament. Sunaina and her mother manage to call Singh and tell him of their whereabouts. Singh goes there and rescues Sunaina and her family. Mishra manages to disqualify Singh on health grounds but reinstates him after Singh apologises; Mishra also requires that Singh will have to lose the match and retire from boxing. Singh loses the final match.

Cast

Production

Scripting

Actor Vineet Kumar Singh said that he was not getting the kind of work he wanted in films, so he decided to write his own script on boxing, as he has a sports background, having been a national-level basketball player who played at six National Games at the mini and sub-junior levels.[2][3] The idea of the film came to Singh based on his observation of the experiences of athletes in the country. He mentions: "I’ve seen lots of stories like this, which stayed with me over the years. I wrote this film because I wanted to play this character and I knew the only way to do that is by writing it myself."[4] Singh wrote the script with his sister, basketball player Mukti Singh Srinet, in 2013 and sought a financier for it.[5][6][7] He looked at the "player's struggles — those who couldn't find their way up because they couldn't land in the officials' good books; the bad conditions they lived, played and practised in".[5] He mentioned a single incident that triggered the script was seeing his senior, who had won several boxing medals and whose photographs had appeared in the newspaper, "stealthily porting luggage" at the Varanasi Junction railway station to make ends meet.[5][3] When Singh saw him, he was trying to hide his face behind the luggage. Singh said the incident "really shook" him because he was also a sportsperson. He took inspiration from the story of some other players who worked as a sweeper or who sold their medals.[3] While he was pitching his script, Singh also worked on his stamina for the role by running, skipping and cardio training for two hours every day.[3] Singh insisted that he had to be the lead actor of the film, but no producer would agree to this.[8]

Development

Eventually, director Anurag Kashyap learned of the script. He had worked earlier with Singh on three films: Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), Bombay Talkies (2013) and Ugly (2014).[4] Kashyap felt that the script was very similar to Rocky (1976) and asked Singh to show him a "Rocky" in India.[6] However, Kashyap found one sequence in the script where the protagonist tries to get a government job interesting.[6] He said he would make the film on two conditions: he would change the script a little, and Singh needed "to look like a boxer".[3] For Kashyap it was boxing and the case of Narsingh Pancham Yadav, who was accused of doping, that prompted him to make the film.[6] Singh said that he knew about the "politics, caste bias and power struggles in sports associations" but Kashyap developed the sociopolitical side of the script.[9] To prepare for the role, Singh could find only mixed martial arts fighters in Mumbai, who were expensive. Kashyap connected him to boxer Vijender Singh, who put him in touch with coaches in Patiala.[3] Singh sold all his belongings and left Mumbai the same night for training after Kashyap decided to make the film.[9] Kashyap, Singh, Mukti Singh, K.D.Satyam, Ranjan Chandel and Prasoon Mishra wrote the final script.[10] Anand L. Rai called Kashyap and asked him to direct Manmarziyaan, but Kashyap said he wanted to make Mukkabaaz first. They both agreed to this and decided to co-produce the film.[11] In July 2017, it was confirmed they would be working together on the film.[12]

Casting

Delhi theatre actress Zoya Hussain makes her feature debut in the film playing a mute girl.[13] Kashyap had wanted to work with her after seeing her film Three and Half Takes, which he liked.[14] To prepare for the role, Hussain spent several months learning non-verbal language and mannerisms from sign language expert Sangeeta Gala.[4] Kashyap said that her disability symbolises the lack of voice women in her region have.[6][7]

Ravi Kishan plays the role of Sanjay Kumar, a failed boxer who teaches Shravan Kumar boxing. He was cast by casting director Mukesh Chhabra.[15] Rajesh Tailang was cast in the role of Shravan's father.[16] Jimmy Shergill was cast as the antagonist, Bhagwan Das Mishra, an upper-caste don.[17] Sadhana Singh was also cast in the film.[18] Real life boxers Neeraj Goyat and Deepak Tanwar also appear in the film.[19][20]

Filming

In preparation for his role, Singh trained as a boxer at the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports.

Kashyap sent his second unit director, Saqib Pandor, to record boxing tournaments, which were then recreated as the state tournaments for the film.[6] They witnessed a boxing tournament happening under a tent without an audience as the boxing ring was being used for something else.[6] Kashyap also realised that after attending an actual boxing tournament in north India that there was no audience apart from "people in power who decide which boxer should represent the state, and who will not".[21] Kashyap told him not to do "filmi training" but to become a hardcore boxer.[22][6] No boxing choreographers or action directors were used for the film.[6] The film is set in the Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh and is inspired by several true incidents.[7] Kashyap also watched several Hollywood films about boxing.[23] Singh trained for a year to play the part with coach Anudeep Singh, a former boxer, who was coaching people for free and runs a garage. His story was used when researching the film.[21] He was also trained by Harpreet Singh, who was a coach of the Indian boxing team.[24] Singh did not disclose to his coaches that he was preparing for a film role.[8] His trainers said that Singh was learning boxing at the age when boxers usually retire.[24]

Singh's training began at the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Patiala, a year before filming.[8][4] During training, he could not see punches coming and took a real beating every day, at one point breaking some ribs. Later, he learned how to counter and defend himself. He trained for more than 700 days and was injured several times.[24] During filming, he fought with real international-level boxers with no choreography. He broke a rib and his hand.[4][5] Kashyap said that in sports films the actors "expose themselves too much", whereas Singh "just disappeared" into the role.[5] Mukkabaaz also deals with the issue of the caste system and cow vigilantism in India.[25][26] It was shot in Bareilly, Varanasi and Lucknow in May 2017.[8][27]

The film was singer-composer Rachita Arora's first film as a composer. She was recommended to Kashyap by Makrand Deshpande. She was doing a play with him and was standing outside in a parking lot. Kashyap heard her song and asked her about its composer; she replied that she had composed it herself. Kashyap later signed her for the film.[6] Aarti Bajaj and Ankit Bidyadhar edited the film, while Shanker Raman, Rajeev Ravi and Jayesh Nair served as the directors of photography.[10]

Soundtrack

Mukkabaaz
Soundtrack album by
Released4 December 2017 (2017-12-04)
GenreFeature film soundtrack
Length42:14
LabelEros Music
Producer
Rachita Arora chronology
Newton
(2017)
Mukkabaaz
(2017)
Sacred Games
(2018)
Nucleya chronology
Kapoor & Sons
(2016)
Mukkabaaz
(2017)
High Jack
(2018)

The film's album soundtrack was composed by Rachita Arora with Nucleya composing one song "Paintra".[28] Hussain Haidry and Vineet Kumar Singh wrote the lyrics.[29] One song, "Mushkil Hai Apna Meil Priye", was written by author and politician Sunil Jogi based on his own poem.[30] Another song, "Blonde Balma", was deleted from the film.[31] Singh wrote the lyrics of two songs after Kashyap wanted him to create a "desi rap", similar to the one he had written for Ugly (2014).[2] Prashant Pillai composed the background score.[10] The vocals were provided by Divine, Brijesh Shandilya, Swaroop Khan, Rachita Arora, Dev Arijit, Vijay Arora, Khushboo Raj, Deepak Thakur and Sukhwinder Singh.[28] The album was released on 4 December 2017 under the Eros Music label.[28]

The album generally received a positive response. Suanshu Khurana of The Indian Express called it "robust" and cited "Paintra" as "one of the better Hindi raps we've heard in a long time."[32] Debarati S Sen of The Times of India praised the album and wrote: "You are left wondering about what deserves the maximum applaud (sic) — the creative music, the intelligent lyrics or the soulful rendition."[33]

Track listing
No.TitleLyricsMusicSinger(s)Length
1."Paintra"Vineet Kumar SinghNucleyaDivine3:52
2."Mushkil Hai Apna Meil Priye"Sunil JogiRachita AroraBrijesh Shandilya5:54
3."Paintra" (Extended Version)Vineet Kumar SinghNucleyaDivine3:52
4."Bahut Hua Samman"Hussain HaidryRachita AroraSwaroop Khan4:33
5."Bahut Dukha Mann"Hussain HaidryRachita AroraRachita Arora & Dev Arijit4:40
6."Chhipkali"Hussain HaidryRachita AroraVijay Arora3:28
7."Saade Teen Baje"Hussain HaidryRachita AroraKhushboo Raj3:28
8."Adhura Main"Vineet Kumar SinghVineet Kumar SinghDeepak Thakur2:57
9."Bahut Hua Samman" (EDM Version)Hussain HaidryRachita AroraSwaroop Khan, Rap: Jaspreet Jasz5:18
10."Haathapai"Hussain HaidryRachita AroraSukhwinder Singh4:13
Total length:42:14
Deleted Song
No.TitleLyricsMusicSinger(s)Length
11."Blonde Balma"Hussain HaidryRachita AroraKalpana Patowary03:27

Release and reception

Release

Mukkabaaz premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and was also screened at the 2017 MAMI Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation.[34][35] A 21-second-long audio teaser was released on 7 July 2017 with the voice of Ravi Kishan.[36] It was followed by a poster launch on 7 December 2017, which showed Singh lying inside a boxing ring with blood on his face.[37] The official trailer was released the same day.[38] The film was originally scheduled for release on 10 November 2017, but the date moved to 12 January 2018.[12][39] Mukkabaaz was released alongside Kaalakaandi and 1921 on about 1100 screens across India.[40][41] A special screening was held for the cast and crew before the theatrical release.[42] The film is also available in DVD format.[43]

Critical reception

Mukkabaaz received mostly positive reviews from critics with particular praise for Singh's performance.[44] Film critic Rajeev Masand responded positively saying, "[..] populated by characters that are authentic and rooted firmly in the landscape, the film sees Kashyap on solid ground." He felt, however, the film was "overlong and occasionally rambling".[45] MensXP.com's Priyadarshini Patwa wrote: "This new rendition brings together a cocktail mixed with the right amount of punches that keeps you hooked to the story."[46] Anirudh Bhattacharya of Outlook felt the film was a "little heftier" but said, "this isn't Raging Bull, it's just rocky."[47] Raja Sen called it Kashyap's best film, made with "vintage filmi sensibility but highly modern skills". He also praised Singh for a "tremendous performance, not least because of his staggeringly authentic physicality".[48] The Hindustan Times' Rohit Vats commended both Hussain's and Singh's performances. She noted that though Hussain is "at the lack of words" ... "her eyes are not", and praising Singh for giving a "performance we all will cherish for years". Vats also called it "the best film in last one year or so."(sic)[49]

Renuka Vyavahare of The Times of India cited the film as a "total knockout" and wrote: "The not-just-a-boxing film must not be missed as it puts forth a message that's most relevant in today's world."[50] The Hindu's Namrata Joshi wrote: "This is in no way a celebration of sports but a hard-nosed look at the rampant corruption, nepotism and casteist politics at the core of games, and life in general, especially their centrality in Uttar Pradesh."[51] Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV praised Hussain and Zoya's performances and the treatment of cow vigilantism and wrote: "Watch it because it is one of the more important films to have come out of the Mumbai movie industry in recent times."[52]

Anupama Chopra praised Singh's physical transformation as well as the "internal transformation", though she expressed her concern over the film's runtime that "just wears you down".[53] Mayank Shekhar wrote: "Mukkabaaz marks Kashyap's fab return to a realm he understands and expresses best -- with all its flaws, angst and humour, Tarantino-esque pop-culture references, making it all as distressing as it is frickin' fun and real."[54] Rachit Gupta of Filmfare felt it was Kashyap's "most mature film to date" with "bits of Rocky, On the Waterfront and a whole lot of Romeo & Juliet".[55] Nandini Uday Bhatia of Mint called it a "bracing start to the movie year" that is "overstuffed, enjoyable and urgent".[56]

On the contrary, Sreehari Nair of Rediff.com felt the film tried to cover too many issues and called it a "minor Anurag Kashyap film" that "aims low and hits."[57] Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express said that the "punches land in exactly the right place" when caste discrimination is addressed in the film. She also felt that the "film falters when it slips into melodrama".[58] Tanul Thakur of The Wire wrote: "Mukkabaaz fails to go beyond the surface of caste realities."[59] Reuters' Shilpa Jamkhandikar said that the film "tries to land too many punches, and in doing so, misses the mark."[60]

Among the overseas reviewers, Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter in a positive review wrote: "Energetic, cinematic, political and not just for sports fans."[61] Screen International's David D'Archy mentioned in his review: "Kashyap manages to pack caste inequality, corruption and a triumph over disability into a romantic melodrama built around the boxing ring."[62] Wendy Ide called the film an example of "gritty, grubby film-making" with "robustly filthy" dialogues, the violence "unflinching and the music loaded with innuendo".[63] Mike McCahill of The Guardian called it "a heavy-hitting social critique disguised as a rock 'em–sock 'em sports movie."[64]

Box office

Mukkabaaz earned 82 lakh (US$110,000) in its first day of release and 1.51 crore (US$210,000) on its second day.[65] It collected a total of 4.04 crore (US$560,000) in its first weekend and 6.75 crore (US$940,000) in its first week.[66][67] The film's opening was slow but the collections increased after positive word of mouth.[68] Mukkabaaz earned a total of 10.51 crore (US$1.5 million) over its theatrical run.[1]

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