Very rarely do you get to see a Bollywood movie with a strong feminist message. From objectifying women and their sexuality, by giving stronger roles to men, by paying actresses less than their male counterparts, by discouraging actresses to join the field after they have married and by constantly judging her weight, height, political stand (on the rare occasions where Bollywood does get involved in politics), and their talent- Bollywood has just time and again proved that it is still dominated by men. I am not saying that they aren’t respected, that would be completely misleading and misinformed statement to make.
What we’re talking about here is the fact that there is a dearth of Bollywood movies with strong female leads. Recently though, there have been movies that have focused on female characters, their journeys of self realisation, breaking stereotypes and confidently dealing with societal prejudices but they have been few( Kahaani, Dirty Picture, Queen, Fashion, Revolver Raani and now Mary Kom). Without going into larger social problems, I am just going to focus on the movie industry and this wonderful movie that I watched last night.
Mary Kom is biographical movie on the five time boxing champion and gold medallist from Manipur, with National Award winning actress Priyanka Chopra playing the titular character. Having watched this movie with my fellow liberal arts students from JNU ( JNU-ites are known to be opinionated, critical and rather skeptical about the amount of melodrama that comes as a package with every Bollywood movie) we were left wondering about how to approach this movie. For a lot of reasons, again socio-political, there were a few things that didn’t appeal to our liberal arts educated minds. Like the fact that they could have gotten an actress, actually from northeast to play the role- who would have suited the role, the dialect and would have been adept with the kind of challenges that one has to face when they’re from northeast. Also the fact that they could have cut down a little bit on the Bollywood cliché melodrama and predictability but then again it is a mainstream commercial movie for the multiplex going audience.
That being said, I actually only have good things to say about the movie. Priyanka Chopra, absolutely killed it. She tries hard to stick to portraying Mary Kom – a small town girl with BIG aspirations, without complicating the acting technique. There were claps in the movie hall, on more than a few occasions. We see this inspirational and fiercely feminine character who never tries to be anything other than what she is- a woman who likes boxing. Of course she is castigated for being a woman boxer, both by men and women, is provoked for being from northeast, affronted by government bullies- but what is commendable is the fact that she never loses her integrity. She is an embodiment of the modern Indian women.
She doesn’t act like a tomboy, she does not want to be a man. She is feminine (I frankly, don’t even understand the dichotomy in gender roles), who feels that “…nailpolish is the birthright of every woman”. She is also strong, without ever feeling the need to prove that the former should be balanced out by the later. She is just a girl wanting to make it big in a man’s world with her pure love for boxing. The movie may fizzle if you’re looking for technical problems, but I believe in the importance of this movie. THIS WAS NECESSARY. Yes, for a society deprived of strong female role models, this is an important movie. Kudos to Omung Kumar to have directed this movie, kudos to Priyanka Chopra for being absolutely stunning in the movie, kudos to Mary Kom’s husband for supporting her throughout and motivating her and most of all Kudos to MARY KOM herself for just being her and inspiring young girls and boys alike.
PLEASE watch the movie! I feel like Mary Kom’s story needs to be heard. The movie, mostly intense also has moments of real humour- simple, hilarious and inspired from everyday life. You’ll love it.
As the last scene closed, there were claps in the movie hall, after all of us had risen from our seats for the national anthem. Such a culture has been missing from the movie halls ever since the multiplex came to India. To have experienced it first hand was a first for me and I loved the fact that there was such a positive engagement with the movie.
Let me know how you felt about the movie. Signing off for today. 🙂