Vineet Kumar Singh stars as a low-caste boxer fighting for respect in Anurag Kashyap’s heavy-hitting social critique
An eclectic run of credits – bizarre psychothriller No Smoking (2007), Devdas update Dev D (2009), crime diptych Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) – have established writer-director-producer Anurag Kashyap as Hindi cinema’s foremost moderniser. He took a beating on Cotton Club-like period folly Bombay Velvet (2015), but his latest, Mukkabaaz (The Brawler) is a canny comeback bid: a heavy-hitting social critique disguised as a rock ’em-sock ’em sports movie, following the attempts of angry lower-caste boxer Shravan (Vineet Kumar Singh) to claw back personal and professional satisfaction after walloping the well-connected coach whose mute niece the boxer was wooing.
Kashyap’s own struggles to stay mobile within a stiflingly regulated, sometimes rigged system never seem very far from the surface. This film-maker’s preference for no-holds-barred realism over the prevailing comforts of melodrama manifests in characters who spit and curse, use the toilet and land genuinely wounding punches; the songs following them into battle mix the poetic with the colloquial (“I am as rough as a badger’s arse”).
Kashyap’s preference for realism manifests in characters who spit and curse and land genuinely wounding punches