Well, what a great year this has been for women in Bollywood! Starting with Madhuri Dixit & Huma Qureshi in Dedh Ishqiya and Alia Bhatt in Highway to Kangana Ranaut in Queen and Rani Mukherjee in Mardaani to Priyanka Chopra now in Mary Kom, women are kicking all kinds of ass in movies that respect them, celebrate them and give them a standing ovation!
Mary Kom, the movie, isn’t perfect by any stretch – it’s got a Bollywood star at its helm instead of a Manipuri actress, it’s got a flawed, hurried screenplay, a sometimes jarring background score, unnecessary song placements; basically every cliche that a typical Bollywood film is guilty of. I can list a thousand ways this movie could have been better, to the level of a potential Foreign Film Oscar nominee, but you know what, all of that is immaterial and really doesn’t matter. Because Mary Kom is a very important film, and perhaps one of the most progressive films that ‘typical Bollywood’ has ever made.
This is a film with an almost completely North East Indian cast and each one of them knock it out of the park, proving that there’s talent *everywhere*, as long as we care to look. This is a film where the husband is shown willingly asking his wife to pursue her passion while he takes care of the kids at home, since his career is secondary and because her career is far too important to be sacrificed. This is a film where a woman, when faced with a choice between choosing her conservative father and choosing the passion of her life; goes for the unlikely choice, because you know what, women can and should do whatever the hell they like too! This is a film that shows that while men may face hardships in Indian sports, women have to overcome hardship from every single sexist male, every chauvinist attitude, every patriarchal rule, and even battle with the natural instincts of motherhood in order to achieve something.
In light of all this and more, Mary Kom is such an inspiring story of one of India’s most under-celebrated sports icons. Yes, it doesn’t hold up as a film at many places (it could have had much more of Manipur and Mary Kom’s struggles too), but this is an important watch for the fact that there lives a legend among us, who is an embodiment of the strength, courage and awesomeness of a woman – especially an INDIAN woman – who has to juggle being a daughter, a wife and a mother, and yet somehow manages to kick ass at all these as well as her passions and dreams… and at the international level that too.. FIVE TIMES OVER! Mary Kom is Maginificent Mary and this may not be the film that India deserves, but it is certainly the film that India needs.
So kudos to the makers, who brought the life of such an inspiration to the screen, for making Bollywood just a little more progressive, open-minded and respectful of women, kudos to Priyanka Chopra, who really put everything she had into this and came out all heart (and I understand that she was cast to bring audiences to the film, which is so important in a movie like this); and kudos to women in general, who are the BEST, and deserve many, many, MANY more such movies about them and their awesomeness, on screen. Please go watch this movie is you are a woman to feel empowered, but please DON’T MISS this if you are a man, to learn from the North East how it is cool to treat a woman with respect!
But please do watch Mary Kom, not for the flawed film it is, but for the brave story it tells and the small but sure step it is for mainstream Bollywood. In cynical times for our cinema where stalking, molesting or insulting their heroines by 45+ ‘stars’ on screen is what passes off as entertainment (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who produced this film, last produced Rowdy Rathore where Akshay pinches a random woman off the streets in the name of ‘love’), we really need to make sure such movies are applauded for the effort to set the status quo straight!
Note: This article first was first put up on Facebook on September 5, 2014.
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