Mary Kom packs a punch

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on September 12, 2014 Published on September 12, 2014

A feminist film that, however, ducks the North East question

Set aside the preachy patriotism and subdued reference to the politics of the North East for a bit: the sports biopic Mary Kom, directed by Omung Kumar, is one that every Indian should watch — especially Indian men. Of course, there’s nothing new about sport on celluloid. Chak De India and Bhag Milkha Bhag are just two good examples of films in this genre. But Mary Kom is different. It is a feminist movie sans sloganeering.

Kumar's depiction of Kom, brought to life on screen by Priyanka Chopra, brings out the turbulence in the boxer's life and career in a way that many women in India, donning myriad roles professionally and personally, can easily empathise with. It’s also the story of a woman from a place that is disturbingly marginalised, who struggles to make the cut in a typically merciless world.

And in that long fight she finds support from someone most Indian women barely find a pillar of strength -- Onler Kom, her husband. Of course, there are supporting hubbies. But a husband who lets the wife pursue her professional ambitions at the cost of his career or comfort is a rarity. The film also looks at the treatment of women athletes in India.

Mary Kom deals with a twin limitation: She is a woman and hails from the North East. The film does not tackle head-on that disturbing political question: the treatment of the North East by the mainland. There is no grand narrative of dissidence and, as many reports have pointed out, it has got a few facts wrong on the geography and sociology of Manipur. Given that the lives of people from this part of the country, unlike many of their southern or even northern counterparts, are enmeshed in the politics of the region (how to engage with hegemonic ‘India’), the film’s apparent omission of the political is a drawback. It succumbs to a degree of stereotyping of the protagonists. Yet, Mary Kom is an inspiring film on the life of a boxer who is a mother to twins and fought her way up taking on odds that many women, and even men, in India would never dare challenge.

Assistant Editor

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Published on September 12, 2014
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