Mukkabaaz Movie Review: Vineet Kumar Singh Shines In Anurag Kashyap’s Greatest Film

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Mukkabaaz review: Vineet Kumar Singh in a still (Image courtesy: AnuragK2.0)

Cast: Vineet Kumar Singh, Rajesh Tailang, Jimmy Shergill, Shreedhar Dubey, Zoya Hussain

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Rating: Five stars

There is nothing I love more in boxing than the feint. The act of throwing half a punch – the very beginning of the blow, to be precise – in order to bluff and misdirect your opponent, making them bob the wrong way before you hook them right, is elegantly artful. Mukkabaaz does this devastatingly well. As a viewer, it is enormously thrilling when a film threatens or promises to go in one direction, prepares you for it, and heads surprisingly, joyously in another. This is not the film you might expect.

The film opens with a lynching. Worse, it opens with a lynching that is being recorded on a cameraphone, as Muslim cow-traders are beaten and exhorted to say ‘Jai Shri Ram.’ This is horrific, but the two boxers watching the clip later are merely bemused. They identify the goons as fellow fighters, and, walking past one of them, tease him as he cursorily denies the accusations. Their tone is not of admonition and accusation but of jovial jeering, as if a rascal was caught doing something playful. This is what it means to them. These are the boxers of Bareilly, and our hero Shravan Kumar is the best of the lot.

Thus does director Anurag Kashyap double-load the film right from the start, giving us a hero to love – soft-eyed and sincere and spry – while making him worship a rapist like Mike Tyson. Kashyap is at his absolute best in Mukkabaaz, all heart and heartland, a movie made with a vintage filmi sensibility but highly modern skills. And a story that bleeds. The love is pulpy and the revenge served up with masala, and that treatment takes this vital narrative farther.

Our boxer rebels, you see. One sunny day he steps up against his dictatorial boxing overlord, a coach who makes his students carry grain and clean mutton, and socks him in the face. This is not because of righteous indignation – though he claims it is – but because a girl in the coach’s house has arrested his attention and he wants, desperately, to make an impression. He is thrashed, soundly, by several, but he has played his card. He wants nothing more than to be her hero.

She, too, wants a hero. Appropriately named Sunaina – the one with lovely eyes – she is a mute girl who speaks volumes with her giant, limpid eyes, and they gleam as she tries to convince her mother that this boxer is a good idea. The mother has several objections, but she brushes them aside as she imitates Ranveer Singh’s dandruffy Tattar-Tattar dance step to say that Shravan looks at her the way Singh looks at… Looks at who, her mother asks? Sign language is forsaken now as she moves her mouth enthusiastically, with an Indian heroine needing no more than a couple of syllables for complete recognition: Dee-pi-ka.

These lovers are, naturally, star-crossed. He is a boxer with little hope of a fighting future especially after his impulsively-conceived act of defiance, and Sunaina is not just a Brahmin but the niece to the man Shravan punched. There are massive complications, but Kashyap tackles them with a superbly light touch, throwing in crowdpleasing lines and lyrics as well as an overall front-bencher approach that genuinely made me whistle. This doesn’t come at the cost of the film’s politics. Pricklier and slyer than the director has been in the past, Mukkabaaz reaches its dark centre with a scene where neighbours come over and offer what they call mutton to a Dalit coach before there is a power outage. The cow-mob erupts all over the boxers who didn’t know better.

The film has four cinematographers – Rajeev Ravi, Shanker Raman, Jay Patel, Jayesh Nair – and I assume a couple of them were responsible exclusively for the in-ring action, which looks fantastically credible as well as mud-coated and earthy. There is a terrific tracking shot in the beginning, which follows Shravan as he enters the feudal coach’s home, and delivers the grain before looking up and the shot breaks only when he looks up to see Sunaina. It’s a fine looking film, bright and vivid yet shadowy when it needs to be, and the music by Nucleya and Rachita Arora gives it vitality, with some lyrics penned by co-screenwriter Vineet Kumar Singh, who also happens to play Shravan.
His is a tremendous performance, not least because of his staggeringly authentic physicality. Singh looks the part, from the way his t-shirt sleeve cuts into his biceps like tightly tied twine to the agility with which he skips in the ring, and his arduous workouts immediately put glossier Hindi film heroes in their place. He makes Shravan real, when he’s throwing punches as well as when he’s vulnerable. Singh has always been impressive, but this is the kind of breakout performance that will make the country take notice. It’s a knockout. This is a long film, and contains interludes that aren’t strictly necessary – like that of a sadistic boss – but Vineet’s compelling performance makes him a character to root for, and even if we are shown the odds too many times, his triumphs feel earned, they feel good. They feel like our triumphs.

He is also a thickheaded hero, one who beats people up and apologises to them, repeatedly, and the way he looks at his heroine is with reined-in desire, expressing his interest with apologetic eyes, as if he doesn’t dare expect reciprocation.

It isn’t hard to see why he would be smitten. The girl’s hands move faster than his own, while furiously expressing herself via sign-language, sure, but also when she slaps him, which she does hard and with impunity, whenever she needs to make a point. Zoya Hussain is great in an excessively demanding part, mute but loud as can be, the feistiest heroine we’ve had in a while.

Ravi Kishan blew me away with his role as a sincere Dalit coach, one who grew up idolising Pele, wasn’t allowed to box, but is an athlete and sits bolt upright, even when being insulted.

[“Source-ndtv”]

Kaalakaandi Box Office Collection Day 1: Saif Ali Khan’s Film Gets A ‘Slow Start,’ Collects…

Kaalakaandi Box Office Collection Day 1: Saif Ali Khan's Film Gets A 'Slow Start,' Collects...

Box Office: Kaalakaandi: Saif Ali Khan in the film. (Image courtesy: Kaalakaandi Film)

NEW DELHI: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Kaalakaandi features Saif Ali Khan in the lead role
  2. The film grosses Rs. One crore
  3. The film also stars Deepak Dobriyal

Saif Ali Khan’s latest release Kaalakaandi, which opened to positive reviews on Friday, has ‘grossed one crore net’ at the box office on Day 1, Box Office India reported. The film stars Saif Ali Khan as the protagonist, who has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. Saif’s character does not have much time in hand and he realises that he should make the most of the remaining days. Box Office India also reports that because the film is set in the backdrop of Mumbai, it has performed a little better in Mumbai and Pune as compared to other cities. Earlier, of Kaalakaandi, film distributor Akshaye Rathi told Indian Express that the film will perhaps manage a score of Rs.1.5 crores on opening day and that the first weekend collections will be limited to single figures.

Kaalakaandi released at the box office with Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz and Zareen Khan’s 1921.

1921 was the best out of the three films with collections set to be in the 1.50 crore net range, reported Box Office India while Mukkabaaz had the lowest number with around 75  lakhs net.

In his review for NDTV, film critic Saibal Chatterjee gave Saif’s film 3 stars out of 5. “For cinema trivia geeks, Kaalakaandi is strewn with interesting takeaways. The principal protagonist (Saif Ali Khan), who like the conscientious but dull bureaucrat Watanabe in the Akira Kurosawa classic Ikiru, is diagnosed with stomach cancer and given only a few months to live. The multiple tales unfold in parallel arcs. It is only in the penultimate scenes and a zany final shot that the plot connects a few of the characters but only in a tenuous manner. Kaalakaandi takes a while to warm up but when it does it sets a lively pace, especially in the second half,” he wrote.

Apart from Saif Ali Khan, Kaalakaandi also stars actors like Deepak Dobriyal, Vijay Raaz and Kunaal Roy Kapur.

[“Source-ndtv”]

Mark Walhberg Was Paid 1,500 Times More Than Michelle Williams To Reshoot Film

Williams earned $1,000 in total, much less than the $1.5 million that Wahlberg earned.

Michelle Williams at the Golden Globes 2018 (Image Credit: AFP)

Hollywood is voicing its outrage over reports that Mark Wahlberg was paid 1,500 times more than Michelle Williams to reshoot scenes for kidnap drama “All the Money in the World.”

Ridley Scott partially re-shot his latest movie after Kevin Spacey was fired due to sexual misconduct allegations, with both Wahlberg and Williams called back to act opposite Spacey’s replacement, Christopher Plummer.

But Williams, according to USA Today, earned a daily allowance of $80 for her work — amounting to under $1,000 in total and less than 0.07 percent of the $1.5 million that Wahlberg earned.

“Please go see Michelle’s performance in ‘All the Money in the World.’ She’s a brilliant Oscar-nominated Golden Globe-winning actress,” raged an indignant Jessica Chastain on Twitter.

“She has been in the industry for 20 years. She deserves more than one percent of her male co-star’s salary.”

Actress and activist Amber Tamblyn described the reported pay gap as “totally unacceptable” while veteran producer Judd Apatow said it was “so messed up that it is almost hard to believe.”

Golden Globe-winning actress Mia Farrow said the disparity was “outrageously unfair,” adding that she was “never, ever paid even a quarter of what the male lead received.”

Williams previously told USA Today she appreciated efforts to reshoot the film, which recounts the kidnapping of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty’s grandson, adding that “they could have my salary.”

Scott said the actors, including Williams and Wahlberg, turned up “for nothing” for the 10-day November re-shoot but USA Today reported that Wahlberg’s agency later renegotiated his “hefty fee.”

At Sunday’s Golden Globes — where “All the Money in the World” came home empty-handed despite three nominations — male and female actors wore black to highlight sexual misconduct and also to promote gender parity.

The protest was organized in part by the newly-launched Time’s Up campaign led by female stars including Williams to address gender discrimination in Hollywood and other industries.

As her date, Williams brought civil rights activist Tarana Burke, the creator in 2006 of the “Me Too” movement to raise awareness of the ubiquity of sexual abuse. The phrase was co-opted by actress Alyssa Milano last year for the #MeToo social media campaign against sexual misconduct in Hollywood.

Representatives for Wahlberg and Williams did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

[“Source-ndtv”]

Film Review: ‘Blind’

'Blind' Review: A Cliched Love Story

Demi Moore and Alec Baldwin play Manhattanites forced together by adversity in this muted drama.

In 1996 Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore starred in “The Juror,” an uninspired thriller (with the unfortunate ad line “There is no defense”) in which she played a single mom  blackmailed by his Mafia hitman into swaying the jury she’s on, lest he kill her son. Both actors had just passed the crest of their brief big-screen stardom, though that wasn’t necessarily evident at the time, even if “The Juror” certainly didn’t help keep them at the top.

Two decades later, Baldwin is something of an institution — albeit mostly for TV comedy, not a path one would have anticipated back then — while Moore, though she’s worked sporadically, feels like a missing person in any recent pop-culture census. The difference in their career arcs can be attributed to many things, an obvious one being Hollywood’s greater willingness to grant a second act to male stars who’ve aged out of their initial hunkdom, as opposed to women who outgrow ingenue roles.

It’s safe to say that their pairing in the new film “Blind” isn’t a reprise anyone was clamoring for and won’t stir any great excitement on its own. This slick but muted drama — a first directorial feature for producer Michael Mailer, written by actor/playwright John Buffalo Mailer, both sons of late literary maverick Norman — reunites the actors in a (somewhat) less pulpy-melodramatic context. This time the emphasis is more on midlife romance than suspense. But the amour is as unconvincing as the tension is underdeveloped. The result is a watchable, albeit unsatisfying, vehicle for two stars who’ve now made a pair of movies together in which their skills constitute the main attraction, yet who aren’t particularly well-served by either film.

Moore plays Suzanne Dutchman, first encountered celebrating her 19th wedding anniversary with husband Mark (Dylan McDermott). They’re penthouse-dwelling members of a Manhattan elite, about to suffer a downfall all too familiar to their class. The Feds arm-twist his lawyer associate (James McCafferty) into exposing some high-end financial skullduggery that’s serious enough to get Mark thrown in jail while awaiting trial. Suzanne’s earnest plea that she knew nothing about these doings (though Mark used their mutual accounts as a cover), rings true enough with a judge to limit her to community service for her unknowing complicity.

Thus she finds herself at a center for the blind, volunteering as a reader for crankily incorrigible Bill Oakland (Baldwin). He’s a novelist of moderate renown who lost most of his sight five years ago in a car accident that killed his wife. He still teaches writing in college, which requires another set of eyes to read his students’ stories aloud.

The two get off to a poor start, as he goes out of his way to offend her, recognizing her shyster husband’s last name, while she proves all-too-easily offended. Nonetheless, the program’s administrator (Eden Epstein) isn’t about to let this overdressed socialite abandon court-ordered duties over a personality clash. So the two keep at it, eventually getting past their mutual dislike.

It’s when the grudging pleasure they begin to take in one another’s company turns into something more that “Blind” forsakes its moderate early promise for shaky contrivance. While the lead characters aren’t fully dimensionalized in the script (which is based on a story idea by producer Diane Fisher), the actors attain a certain amiable frisson so long as erudite but semi-insufferable artiste Bill is playfully goading the uptight Suzanne, whom Moore imbues with a refined reserve bordering on resentment. (That Moore’s performance is occasionally a bit stilted, particularly early on, actually works in her character’s favor.) But when Bill commences pitching “Scent of a Woman” woo, and Suzanne eventually succumbs, the dynamic — both in acting and psychological terms — grows much less convincing. The more we’re meant to be swept up in their romantic chemistry, the less it’s evident.

Nor is “Blind” helped by the simultaneous darkening of Mark, who behind bars reveals a sneakiness, jealousy and violence that somehow evaded his wife’s notice until now. McDermott is up to the job, but he’s playing a villain in a near-thriller that occupies little of the runtime. He ends up seeming to exist in a different, fragmentary movie — something considerably more like “The Juror” — awkwardly cobbled onto the main one.

Various supporting characters are more distracting than enriching. These include Epstein, as well as Steven Prescod (as an aspiring writer), Drew Moerlein (as Mark’s own wannabe-protege), Viva Bianca (a predictably backstabbing fellow socialite), and scenarist Mailer as a janitor. The young Mailers surely must have witnessed sufficient Big Apple celebrity, power, talent, striving, ego and excess to make all these character types come alive. Tethered to a central love-story concept that never quite gels, however, none of them quite do.

In the larger scheme of things, Bill is the biggest disappointment: Always a confident, competent screen performer, Baldwin nonetheless can’t elevate the material’s rote movie notion of “serious author” as rude, rascally and able to pull literary quotes from thin air.

While narratively underwhelming, “Blind” is smoothly packaged, its veneer of Manhattan high life amplified by well-chosen locations, Michal Dabal’s attractive widescreen compositions, and a soundtrack filled with lightly jazzy contributions from various musicians.

Film Review: ‘Blind’

Reviewed online, San Francisco, July 13, 2017. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 106 MIN.

Production

A Vertical Entertainment release of a Michael Mailer Films presentation in association with Foresight Unlimited, AMPM Enterprises, Tremendous Entertainment, El Dorado Pictures, Haymarket Annex II and Funding Group of Kingston. Producers: Michael Mailer, Diane Fisher, Pamela Thur, Jennifer Gelfer, Martin Tuchman. Executive producers: Alan Helene, Alessandro Penazzi, Scott Kluge, Alec Baldwin, Mallory Schwartz, Mark Damon, Tamara Birkemoe, Terry Allen, Kramer Khuloud, Kelly Rabadi, David Moscow, Jonathan Gray.

Crew

Director: Michael Mailer. Screenplay: John Buffalo Mailer, from a story by Diane Fisher. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Michal Dabal. Editor: Jim Mol. Music: Dave Eggar, Chuck Palmer, Amy Lee, Sasha Lazard.

With

Alec Baldwin, Demi Moore, Dylan McDermott, Steven Prescod, Viva Bianca, John Buffalo Mailer, Eden Epstein, Drew Moerlein, James McCaffrey.
[“Source-variety”]