Your normal film with a three-act structure takes a while to move on from its setup. “A while” here usually means 20 minutes at the least. But in Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz, the film opens with the conflict. Like, boom, here you go – hero-villain, lines drawn. Not once does it lay low from then.

This is a story about a brawler becoming a boxer. It spends time drawing the lines between the two, and then merging them. This is the underlying arc in this otherwise simplistic entertainer. Yes, this plays out as Kashyap’s vision of a mass-masala potboiler that has everything in it – slapstick comedy, addressing of social issues, star-crossed romance, you know the works. So it looks like an indie by form, but it actually is a masala at heart. This marriage works out very well for the film, the only qualm being a cardboard (more like steel, because there’s style to him) villain. Jimmy Shergill is absolutely menacing, his school of thought is well etched out too, but he is just plain evil here, with no dynamism. He’s been made way too easy to hate. He isn’t half an interesting as the protagonists. One is a guy who packs all his anger on everything that’s wrong around him, inside his fists. The other is a symbol of women having their own voice, when she is one without a “voice-box”. There’s so much that can be written about them, and then there’s Bhagwan Das Mishra.

“She doesn’t have a voice-box”, is how Shravan calls Sunaina “mute”. You keep getting such quirks, some organic, some very Kashyap-y (like the one on impotency that goes something like “there’s no tobacco in his cigarette”), but it’s all balanced out well in the sense that it doesn’t feel one way over the other. This is also one very self-aware film, for the way it keeps referencing the Ramayana at moments that are literally off the epic. Sita is taken away by Raavana, and we get a very appropriately timed reference that also gets it share of well-deserved laughs. In this way it appears light, but it feels heavy whenever it has to. The portions where Shravan is getting bogged down by both societal and personal weight, you literally feel all the load and exhaustion. Vineet Kumar Singh delivers an earnest performance that taps into our emotions very easily. So does Zoya Hussain, whose eyes seem way louder than her voice that I can only try to imagine at the moment.

So Anurag Kashyap is also as visible as these characters, right from the moment where our hero and heroine are falling in love as the former is pounding a guy to death. That’s like his signature over the film. This film is also going to be one kind of a litmus test for the story-versus-star debate at the box-office, because it has the perfect makings of a blockbuster, on paper. I really am welcoming this man to the world of “commercial cinema”. Hope he turns out more stuff in this realm he’s just entered.


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