Actor Vineet Kumar deserves kudos for working hard - physically that is - to play the part of a boxer from Bareilly, who wants that one chance in the ring. He's getting to be 25 years old and he will soon miss out on competing for the state level championships, let alone compete in the Nationals. The one big obstacle in his path is his coach, who tends to treat boxers as his manservants.
Hotheaded Shravan Singh falls instantly in love with his Coach's niece. It's a multi-layered problem right there. The coach is Bhagwan Das Mishra, an upper caste Brahman who is also the local heavy, and so powerful he could make or break Shravan's career. Shravan is of course belongs to the Rajput community, but as Bhagwan Das Mishra puts it scathingly: Any low caste lad can put a 'Singh' after his name and assume a higher caste. For Shravan proposing marriage would be outrageous. His hotheadedness too makes him say, 'We're boxers, here to train, not to do odd jobs for you while you lie in the Sun.
Of course he gets bashed up. After bashing up his coach's men. He gets bashed up several times because this is not complicated. There's more!
The coach's niece loves him back! This love story is all eyes and no words, and Anurag Kashyap's direction is marvelous here. The small town innocence - her saucer large eyes, his almost brave but essentially shy ways of showing love - is most amazing. When he realises that she loves him back, he is ready to defy the world (especially her uncle, who has blacklisted Shravan). His act of defiance, a wild dance at his friend's wedding is perhaps the finest scene in the film, and I feel terrible that it may be shadowed by the cameo appearance of the star Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Yes, there's violence on every level and the director could have made it very ugly by simply showing the rape of the niece as well as her mother as it oft times happens in reality, but he doesn't, and thankfully too. There is enough violence in boxing. And in the perpetually angry hero needs to learn to curb his volcanic feelings. The coach and his methods are violent too. Sticks and bricks and steel rods used on unsuspecting bodies make for incredible violence.
And everything is broken by songs. The official site says there are eight songs in the film. Feels like there must be over fifteen. He's training, there's a song. She's watching him follow her around, listen to the song. His daily routine, there's a song. He's emotional, let there be song. She's emotional, listen to a song. He's attending some wedding (and we know he's from 'ladke walon ki taraf se' or the groom's side, but that wedding manages to add nothing to the screenplay except get Nawazuddin his song and show us how UP weddings are) there are not one but two songs. He's pummeling someone in the ring, here, listen to a song. He's wandering about angry and confused and searching for someone, there is a song. The training song is apt, but the rest are local noise.
Zoya Hussain as Sunaina is incandescent. Jimmy Shergill as Bhagwan Das Mishra is the best villain, but what's with his Horror film eyes? Vineet Kumar plays Shravan Kumar Singh is amazing. Shravan and Sunaina's dads are stupendous. And Ravi Kisen, is a star. Watch them bring the hotch potch editing of the story alive. Then ask yourself, who repeats the daily routine sequence twice?
Now Anurag Kashyap has given us some amazing cinema. But this khichdi of romance and revenge and sports and politics created by several writers is on many levels just a mish mash, tasty in parts but still a pandering to the image of 'Anurag Kashyap knows small town North India'. I wish I could have loved this movie more. Then realised, I didn't care for any character enough to love the film.
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