Mary Kom: A punch in the right direction

Published: September 11, 2014
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Apart from her appearance, Priyanka became Mary Kom in a way that nobody probably expected her to be. PHOTO: IMDB

When you think of movies under the Sanjay Leela Bhansali banner, you think of epic romances, of the colours blue, grey, and black, of love and passion, and women dancing in the most extravagant of lehngas.

But the last thing you would expect from a Bhansali movie is a story about a young girl trying her luck in the patriarchal field of sports. This is why the movie Mary Kom was pleasantly surprising.

But Mary Kom coming from a big production house is not why I liked it. I liked it because of the following reasons:

1) It is a biopic. This kind of cinema is really inspirational and it gives the masses something to watch other than the mainstream Bollywood love stories, family drama and masala.

2) The protagonist is a female and this just goes to show that Indian movies have come a long way and have matured in terms of gender equality and giving a voice to the female population.

3) Despite it being an Indian movie, it’s not completely ‘Indian’. They have not tried to ‘Indianise’ the movie and have done justice to the local language, culture and mannerisms of the people of Manipur. Although Manipur is a part of India, it is very different from mainstream India which we always come across in movies.

All the actors seem to be of Manipuri origin, except for Priyanka Chopra of course, and this makes the story seem original and believable. They have also highlighted the discrimination the people of Manipur face at the hands of Central Indians.

Photo: Mary Kom official Facebook page

4) Priyanka Chopra. I don’t think this movie would’ve created such an impact without Priyanka’s award worthy acting. Though at first I was a bit sceptical because she signifies beauty and glamour, whereas the real Mary Kom is simple and athletic, but the filmmakers did a great job with Priyanka’s costumes and make up. They also made her skin look like that of the people of Manipuri. But apart from her appearance, Priyanka became Mary Kom in a way that nobody probably expected her to be. Her performance was very powerful and any young girl striving to achieve her dreams would be able to relate to her.

Perhaps the best thing about Mary Kom is that it narrates not only the story of MC Mary Kom, the boxer, but also gives us an idea of the thousands of girls living in male-dominated societies that are too conservative and too rigid to let them follow their dreams.

Mary Kom. Photo: Mary Kom official Facebook page

While watching the movie, I thought of Maria Toorpakai from Waziristan, Pakistan, who had to disguise herself as a boy just so that she could play the sport she loved. After winning competitions, she received threats and so had to practice in her room but continued to pursue her ambition without giving up in the face of adversity.

There are an innumerable amount of girls who do not get to do what they love just because their family, culture, society and religion say it’s not ‘appropriate’.

This makes you think, because of backwardness, of how much talent Pakistan has lost? Our youth has a lot of potential but it is being wasted because we don’t have proper channels to nurture it, groom the talent and allow it to grow. Instead we suffocate it and keep it buried in our backyard and, in the case of girls, in our kitchens.

Photo: Mary Kom official Facebook page

Even though Mary Kom didn’t do so well at the box office, I am glad that Bollywood made this movie and hopefully, one day, Pakistan will also make movies about inspiring people like Maria Toorpakai and others who struggled but made it, with no help from their country or society.

Maybe such a movie won’t be allowed to screen in Pakistan, the same way Mary Kom has not been allowed to screen in Manipur, but when has banning something ever stopped people from seeing it? People will watch it, nonetheless, and it might help in fixing certain distorted, unfair perspectives. This film will help people open up their minds a little, and make them understand the importance of coming out of their shell of bigotry and valuing talent irrespective of gender.

Sonal Arshad Siraj

Sonal Arshad Siraj

A student of psychology and social sciences, who likes to eat and write in that order. She tweets @Sonal_arshad (twitter.com/Sonal_arshad?lang=en)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • mimi sur

    “Despite it being an Indian movie, it’s not completely ‘Indian’. They have not tried to ‘Indianise’ the movie and have done justice to the local language, culture and mannerisms of the people of Manipur. Although Manipur is a part of India, it is very different from mainstream India which we always come across in movies.” –>Democracy is like a bundle of flower from where scent of every flower should come and we do justice to retain it . Culture of every state in India varies . The name of the state “Manipur” is itself Indian name . It’s culture is a typical Indian culture . Just go through the link and let us know how it is different from main stream. When language ,being the main component of culture, of every Indian state is different , how can be the cultures same ? There is no such mainstream India and what you see everyday may not represent mainstream India .

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manipur#CultureRecommend

  • nayeem

    Very well analysed and written as always! :)Recommend

  • Irony

    5 time world champion..not thriceRecommend

  • Proud Indian

    I dont understand why people in Pakistan feel amazed when they see “different” Bollywood films. There are tons of such films being churned out – if you choose to only see the masala stuff, maybe it’s you who have the blinkers…Recommend

  • SH

    We have examples like Naseem Hameed and Kulsoom Hazara. From your point C and other comments, it seems you’re extremely pessimistic about Pakistan to be honest. Recommend

  • Prashant

    Anshuman, do you really need to poke fun at the Pakistanis for the situation they are in?

    A country of a billion strong population does not touch the double figure in Olympics, Is not that a shame where as our northern neighbours have some of the best athletes in the world.

    We have more to be ashamed of in the field of sports than the Pakistanis.

    Also, it might not have been feudalism but it was not hunky dory for NC Marykom either. Let us take pride in her achievements and not credit as she would have been another forgotten hero of India had she lost her way.

    The only place we are better than the Pakistanis in the field of sports is we do not preach religion on the field.Recommend

  • the chauhan

    First of all ….”mainstream India” lol ….you only see the UP-Bihari-Bombaiya culture in Bollywood movies & you call that mainstream Indian culture…You have never seen that Rajasthan ,Punjab ,Kumaon,Garhwal , Tamil , Bundela , Tamil , Telugu , Malayalee etc cultures which too are mainstream Indian cultures.

    Please admit except for Hindi-speaking section of Bombay & Western UP , you know nothingRecommend

  • L.

    Never In a million years? Lol.
    Seriously,. We are alhamdolillah blessed with heaps of talent in every field. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    I don’t watch indian movies; but you ppl also need to admit that except for what the media shows you, you know nothing of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Omar

    ufff.. i think the writer got it totally wrong! this is India specific problem… i.e. Manipur does not allow Bollywood movies to screen there… due to poverty, cultural and separatist issues… they also have similar kind of issues in Kashmir and the RED corridor of India … So the statement “Maybe such a movie won’t be allowed to screen in Pakistan” sounds very stupid!Recommend

  • Omar

    ufff.. i think the writer got it totally wrong! this is India specific problem… i.e. Manipur does not allow Bollywood movies to screen there… due to poverty, cultural and separatist issues… they also have similar kind of issues in Kashmir and the RED corridor of India … So the statement “Maybe such a movie won’t be allowed to screen in Pakistan” sounds very stupid!Recommend

  • Gp65

    For those who live in India, that is obvious – What other source do they have? For those abroad, we have Pakistani friends, we eat at Pakistani restaurants, use Shaan masalas for certain dishes and certainly have an additional window to Pakistan.Recommend

  • th chauhan

    But Ii do not even claim to know anything about the “Islamic Theocracy”……only browsing for the movie .& here this piece appearsRecommend

  • L.

    People like these cannot STAND anything good happening in Pakistan. It literally hurts them. Why else would they be bringing up Pak on the review of an Indian movie?

    No Indians, he doesn’t represent all of you, I know that.Recommend

  • Queen

    Have you heard of Naseem Hameed, Maria Toorpakay, or Nazia Parveen?Recommend

  • Raza

    No waiting a film on Naseem Hameed and other females who have brought glory to Pakistan in their respective fieldsRecommend

  • mimi sur

    What a ridiculous answer ? If you don’t watch Indian movies , How can you write a review or what do you do in an Indian movie section ? Yes , we know nothing about pakistan Recommend

  • Anshuman Tripathy

    Yes, I agree that I wrote that comment in a sour mood. It is a shame that we still end up with a paltry amount of medals in the Olymics when African countries the size of our smaller states win more than us.

    But the situation in our country is slowly but surely changing. Corporate companies have started funding & training promising athletes free of cost. But there is still a lot of room for improvement.

    Needless to say I am hopeful for the future.

    But you have to admit that feudalism runs deep in pakistani society.

    It is highly doubtful, to say the least, that a rice farmer in rural pakistan can dream of his daughter being a 5 time world boxing champion and an Olympian.Recommend

  • Anshuman Tripathy

    Corrected it :)Recommend

  • Guest

    This “Anshuman, do you really need to poke fun at the Pakistanis for the situation they are in?”
    Followed by “The only place we are better than the Pakistanis in the field of sports is we do not preach religion on the field.”
    Hypocrit much !!Recommend

  • L.

    1. I did not answer anyone, cos there was no question
    2. I did not write a review
    3. I can be in any section I want
    4. Do not tell me what to doRecommend

  • Prashant

    You mean it Naila or are you also in sour mood like Anshuman?Recommend

  • Prashant

    I have evidence to prove both the statements I have made, how does that make me a hypocrite?Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Excuse the outburst; but it’s not easy to keep sane when half your home town is drowning and then there’s random Indians not only pretending to know a thing or two about your country, but also declaring that they know the future- “those who say it cannot be done shouldn’t interrupt the people doing it”. Recommend

  • SH

    On one hand you’re discouraging Anshuman from poking fun at Pakistan and on the other you’re doing it yourself. But anyway, thanks for the former.Recommend

  • SH

    Many female athletes in Pakistan, few mentioned here, come from very poor families. All your comments are based on what media shows you about Pakistan and of course what it shows is hardly ever positive. Recommend

  • Critical

    I’ve not seen this movie,because I didnt like that a Punjabi Priyanka Chopra is playing the role of a Manipuri woman even though she looks nothing close to her…

    Its like Brad Pitt acting in Martin Luther King’s biopic because both of them are Americans so its perfectly valid…

    its a pity that the NE Indians arent given any recognition because of their different features from the regular Indians and called “chinkis” by others…

    its not just them,until recently,the Bollywood heroes and Heroines were all fair skinned and the only roles Dark skinned people received were negative roles…Recommend

  • Sridhar Kaushik

    Living in US, I feel disgusted by the fact the only thing that Indians seem to be interested as far as sports is concerned is:Cricket. Everything else be damned. And this is the reason why India, a nation of 1 billion plus people, has not enough Gold medals at all Olympics put together as China has in just the last Olympics.
    Also, when you read these newspapers and media, all they seem to be interested is bollywood and politics. Gone are the days when you can read serious news in a newspaper
    There is some silver lining though. IPL like situation is developing for football (soccer) in India. Perhaps making sports more lucrative is the only way to go in a nation which seem to have lost its traditional moorings.Recommend

  • Prashant

    67 years since Independence, India has not realised its potential and in my opinion Pakistan does not know what it stands for other than being a negation of India.

    the irony is the people who in most cases sound liberals are the ones who come up with either veiled or blatant justifications

    An unsolicited advise is nothing but invading into someones personal space and telling the person ” you are going to hell” is a mark of a mindsetRecommend

  • Prashant

    Let us get out of the cocoon Naila.

    If talent is what you can do but have not yet, countries in Africa would beat India and Pakistan hands down.

    Where is the talent unless you can show it and what is the point of having talent if you are eventually going to disown the man for having a particular set of beliefs.Recommend

  • Prashant

    No I never heard, I googled for info:

    Naseem Ahmed: Fastest women in South Asia.

    Maria Toorpakay- Highest ranking, no 41 in the world.

    Nazia Parveen- First female Pakistani rock climber.

    I salute the ladies for what they have achieved but it is unfair of you to expect Indians to know these names when Marykom herself was relatively unknown in India until she won the olympic medal though she had been a world champion on more than one occasion.

    The question is why don’t we produce sportspersons who can win medals at olympics, Marykom herself was an aberration as she was not a product of the system.Recommend

  • Gp65

    My condolences for the floods. They are a great human tragedy. I hope your loved ones are safe. Recommend

  • Nb

    @ Author
    What is ‘Indianize’ or ‘mainstream India’ ? India is a plural,composite society- no Indian resembles the other in language,food or culture,every few hundred kilometres. Manipuris are different from nagas & malayalis are different from tamilians as are gujratis from rajasthanis-and all these I’ve mentioned are states sharing borders.People are different even within the state-some states have a distinct culture in the northern part compared to their southern parts & people from the hilly regions of the same state have different costume,food,dialect from the people of the same state along the coast-for example,hilly Coorgis are completely different from coastal mangaloreans in dress,language,culture,lifestyle and food,though they are districts of the same state.Even people of the same religion are different,depending on location.
    I think you mistakenly said ‘Indianize’ assuming that the U.P/Bihar/Punjab/Mumbai culture,you see on most Bollywood movies-is actually the ‘mainstream Indian’ culture.What you see on Bollywood is a very small part of India-so your surprise at how Mary Kom seems different from other Bollywood work,is understandable.Recommend

  • Anon

    You’re forgetting people like Smitha Patil.What is a ‘regular’ indian anyway ? If someone is called ‘chinki’,others are called ‘surdi’,’madrasi’,’baniya’ etc. I live in the south,and Srks ‘lungi dance’ can be considered highly insulting here-but I can take it badly or laugh at it.Recommend

  • Anon

    What you say about greater interest in cricket is true-but that isn’t the reason why we have fewer Olympic medals. The only reason for that is that unlike China/Usa/former Ussr,Indian athletes don’t have the infrastructure & Govt. funding/support-so athletes like Mary Kom, Sushil Kumar,Abhinav Bhindra etc. have to rely mostly on individual resources/training/self motivation to get ahead-nothing to do with public interest in cricketRecommend

  • abhi

    While I can understand your emotions, this is logically not correct. You can similarly object Farhan Akhtar playing role of Milkha Singh. I just saw the movie and it is really a good movie depicting life and stuggle of Mary Kom. NE specially Manipur has given us lots of good atheletes and this Movie has put this fact infront of all to see.Recommend

  • SH

    He is 1 player out of a team of 11 and what he did was wrong but his mindset does not represent the other 10 players or the whole of Pakistan. Blogs were written on this topic here and majority of the readers who commented were not in favour of his act. Does India practice 100% religious tolerance? No.

    Recommend

  • Prashant

    Producing more Naseem’s is a better proposition than a movie. Making a movie really does not help the concerned sport in my opinion.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Sridhar, when you were growing up, did your parents encourage you to play any sport? That is where we need to change, it is high time we stop thinking that children from the tribal lands / villages make us proud beating all odds while we remain elitist making our children think they must become engineers/doctors else they are a failure.

    I hope I was not too blunt.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “what he did was wrong but his mindset does not represent the other 10 players or the whole of Pakistan. ”

    Living in denials bro, think about it again, you would not have lost a sitting Governor to a man and subsequently he would not have been showered with petals.

    “He is 1 player out of a team of 11 and..”

    Pakistan had lost a match to India, the then captain of the Pakistani team, Shoaib Malik offers an apology to all Muslims in the world which includes Indian Muslims, Is it so difficult for a Pakistani to understand that the Indian Muslims are represented by Indians and not Pakistanis. So your proposition stands incorrect as Ahmed Shehzad is not an aberration.

    Finally, we are not 100% tolerant and will never be but we do not practice institutionalised discrimination and our players know that the Indian jersey comes with a certain responsibility.Recommend

  • Ari C

    haha “Central India” ha – do you then mean Bhopal and Jabalpur – that’s Central India! To come to the point, what you meant perhaps was UP-Bihari-Panjabi make-believe-mashups of Bollywood!! That’s probably 20-25 % of India!Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Poonjabis have very low self esteem. They have given up their own language, Punjabi, in which their Gurus and saints talked. They have adopted Urdu. It has sense of entitlement. Indian subcontinent needs to get freedom from language hegemony. Sanskrit atleast boast great literature, divine scriptures and even scientific treatise such as AyurVed, Ganit, VastuShastra etc,Recommend

  • nadir

    i think ALL of you missed the point of this article no? She hasn’t said anything negative about india at all infact she’s talked about how well our Bollywood industry is doing. Its about women empowerment and how people like mary kom are getting a voice. but instead you all made it into a india vs pak debate. really guys? do we really hated each other so much?Recommend

  • nadir

    dear author, loved this review much better than other reviewsRecommend

  • نائلہ

    Mean what? my comment? yes I do. And you are a living proofRecommend

  • L.

    Talent= what we have

    Just cos you have no knowledge of it, doesnt mean it doesnt exist. “eventually going to disown the man for having a particular set of beliefs.” that, I will not entirely disagree with. Minorities do have a harder life, though not to the extent that they are disowned.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Well, I was surprised to know you do not watch Indian movies but can remember a few dialogues from 3 idiots

    I am a living proof, of what?Recommend

  • L.

    3 idiots and taray zameen par were great movies that’s why. Other than those 2, I don’t remember the last indian movie I watched.

    And you are a living proof of the fact that Indians know nothing about Pakistan. Recommend

  • Prashant

    If I was wrong you could have simply provided the examples to prove your point. Thanks.Recommend

  • bigrat devil

    Frankly speaking lady ..you did not do enough research on this topic.Recommend

  • bigrat devil

    ” there was no question” -> you were asked to admit ..
    Of course its upto you if you admit or answer to clarify. You did nothing and as usual bad attitude from you.Recommend

  • bigrat devil

    bigotry at its best .. thats what you symbolize.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Allright Naila, so you watch Indian movies which are really good.

    “And you are a living proof of the fact that Indians know nothing about Pakistan.”

    I do not claim to know everything about Pakistan but if I say Pakistan and India are pathetic at the greatest sporting event in the world, how does that need any knowledge about Pakistan other than just checking the list of the medals won by these countries.Recommend

  • L.

    Such a nice person is telling me of my bad attitude!! Appreciated :)Recommend

  • نائلہ

    I watch indian movies ppl tell me are really good.

    And I meant that comment in general; you cannot deny that. Recommend

  • Sona

    What I meant by mainstream India is of course what we see in movies. The screen is the only lens through which we get to see India and ofcourse that image cannot be generalised to the entire population. I did not mean to sterotype any kind of Indians in this blog, it was nice to see another unique culture of your country (manipuri) :)Recommend

  • Nobody

    While India still has a long way to go before the term equality can be bandied about in their film industry, I am certainly looking forward to this movie. Not a fan of Priyanka but she can put forward a good performance from time to time.Recommend