Mary Kom, the film

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A demure Mangte Chungneijang (better known as Mary Kom)(Priyanka Chopra) weds Onler Kom (Darshan Kumaar) in Mary Kom (2014)

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The film

Mary Kom (Priyanka Chopra) doing gravity-defying stunts in Manali under coach Mr Singh (Sunil Thapa) in Mary Kom (2014)
Mary Kom (Priyanka Chopra) doing gravity-defying stunts in Manali under coach Mr Singh (Sunil Thapa) in Mary Kom (2014)
Mary Kom (Priyanka Chopra) doing gravity-defying stunts in Manali under coach Mr Singh (Sunil Thapa) in Mary Kom (2014)

Mary Kom (Sept 2014)

122 minutes

See also the independent page Mary Kom, especially to cross check the film with the facts

Crew

Producer: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Director: Omung Kumar

Story: Saiwyn Qadras

Dialogues: Ramendra Vasishth, Karan Singh Rathore

Music: Rohit Kulkarni, Shashi, Shivamm

Photography: Keiko Nakahara

Cast

Priyanka Chopra: Mary Kom

Darshan Kumaar: Mary’s husband, Onler Kom. (DNA India called Darshan Kumaar a ‘Jat actor from Delhi.’ However, most NE audiences assumed that he was a Meitei or from Assam or Tripura, because of his look in the film.)

Sunil Thapa: Mary's coach M Narjit Singh (Thapa is Nepalese)

Robin Das: Mary’s father

Rajni Basumatary: Mary’s mother (The Basumatarys are Bodos from the Assamese region of Bodoland)

Kenny Basumatary: Jimmy

Shakti Singh: Sharma ji

Linn (sic) Laishram: Semebem (See Lin Laishram, for more about the supermodel from Manipur)

Zachary Coffin: German Boxing Coach

Shishir Sharma: Amit Kumar

Minakkshi Kalitaa

Bijou Thaangjam

Rajesh Khatri

The first active Indian sportsperson with a biopic

India’s national heroine Mary Kom became the first sportsperson in Indian history to have a biopic made on her during her active career, the second living sportsperson (after Milkha Singh) to have such a film in her lifetime and the third sportsperson ever (Paan Singh Tomar being the third: and his was no hagiography, unlike Milkha’s and Mary’s).

Mary Kom, the film is, like Bhaag Milkha, Bhaag (2013) an A-list film, with one of India’s highest paid actresses, Priyanka Chopra, playing the legend in her own lifetime.

Response to the film

Reviews

The film received mixed reviews on the first day, more good than lukewarm. However, the word-of-mouth was so positive that by the weekend so were the reviews.

The Times of India: 3 ½ stars, i.e. very good;

imdb: 7.4/ 10 at the end of 3 days;

India Today: average

Hindustan Times: 'a worthy attempt' 3 stars

Box office collections

However, there were decent box office collections, proving that Mary was the idol of the whole nation.

The film opened on 3000 screens according to Koimoi, and 1,800 screens according to IANS. The former figure would put Mary Kom on a par with some mega-budget Indian films.

Koimoi called the film ‘one of the most anticipated films of the year.’ It earned Rs7.5 crore on its first day. This was far more than 2014’s superhit--sleeper hit, actually--Queen netted on its first day.

Collections picked up on the second day and rose to Rs9.75 crores in the domestic circuit.

The third day was better still. The film’s Opening Weekend (three-day) gross was Rs27.50 crore [(Rs.28.32 crore according to IANS)], which was the 11th highest gross of 2014 till September. By way of comparison the superhit and much-awaited Ragini MMS 2 earned Rs24 crore in the same period. The even bigger hit Queen had earned only Rs9.55 but then Queen had no pre-release build up and it picked up steam with every passing day.

However, on the fourth day, a Monday, Mary Kom's educated, yuppie fans were back to their schools, colleges and corporate jobs. Collections fell steeply to Rs 3.75 crore and remained there on the weekdays of the first week.

Most of these earnings came from Delhi and Mumbai.

In all, the film collected Rs46 crore in its First Week.

In its second weekend the film collected Rs 7.5 crores, indicating that it was running out of steam. At the end of its second Sunday its total earnings were Rs 53.50 crore, which makes the film a hit, but not a superhit. The film is unlikely to draw close to Kahaani’s Rs60 crore.

Óverseas:' In its first 4 days, Mary Kom esarned Rs7.25 crore abroad, which is very good for a female- oriented film

The film is the 4th highest earning female-oriented film of all times, entirely on the strength of India's best-loved female athlete since PT Usha.

By way of comparison, see what other major female-oriented films collected during their lifetime on the page Women-led Hindi-Urdu films

Response in the North East

The film was released in 72 cinemas in Assam and two in Meghalaya; all initial shows were screened to full houses. In both states there were many students who watched it on the first day itself. Many were left inspired and clapped at the end of the film, IANS reported.

"Mary is from the northeast, so naturally there are sentiments attached," a distributor from Assam told IANS. People from the northeast are simply delighted as for the first time a biopic has been made on someone from the region, which has helped people to understand the state is part of India. IANS)

Assam's Ashiq Zaman, a government official told IANS: "Northeast states are hardly highlighted in mainstream cinema, so I wanted to see how they would present Manipur and its people." said Mr Zaman. "There were lot of Manipuri people in the audience. About 50 percent of the audience must have been Manipuri who are staying in Assam."

S S Kom, an HR executive, said, "Lot of people are saying that a Manipuri actress should've played the role, but had it been an unknown face from the state, it wouldn't have done well in terms of business. I liked the script. Women can learn something from it."

Mr Kom, thus, vindicated Indpaedia’s own stand on the subject: that, despite Indpaedia being a partisan for Bala Hijam and Lin Laishram, it is more important to give the NE, Manipur and Mary Kom the biggest audience possible, than to give a local actress a role.

Enthusiasm in other states

Proving that Mary Kom, the boxer, was a nationwide icon, the Rajasthan government exempt the film from entertainment tax on the day of its release. The same day Maharashtra (the biggest market for Hindi-Urdu films) and Uttar Pradesh (India’s biggest state and the biggest Hindi-Urdu-speaking state) exempt the film from entertainment tax. Assam followed suit.

State governments tend to exempt from tax films that rise above commerce and are made for idealistic reasons rather than profits, because it is felt that such films need incentives to pull in audiences.

However, Mary Kom proved such a hit--at least on the first three days--that the tax relief was not needed. instead, many unscrupulous exhibitors did not pass the tax rebate to customers at least on the first weekend. They almost doubled the cost of tickets and gave the tax exemption on this ‘heightened’ price: in effect charging more or less what they would have anyway. [1]

Mary Kom: Fact or fiction?

'Please do not call Mary Kom Bollywood masala' Laxmi Negi, Rediff, September 09, 2014

The 122-minute biopic Mary Kom is a hit, but not a blockbuster like the 186-minute epic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag because i) the few female-oriented films that are made in India always earn less than male-oriented ones, which are the norm; ii) Milkha has been a hero to three generations, a household name, and the fountainhead of silly jokes that do not do justice to the national hero (vs. Mary Kom’s reign as a national heroine being hardly five or ten years old) ; but above all iii) Bhaag Milkha Bhaag has the feel of an epic because of the larger-than-life Partition and train robbery scenes, Milkha’s army career, his many girl-friends (the Sonam Kapoor character never existed) and several episodes (notably Milkha disappearing on a motorcycle to his ancestral village on his first visit to Pakistan after partition) that are sheer fiction.

Apart from the fact that the photography of Mary Kom is not what one expects of a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, Mary Kom does not have an epic feel partly because it has not introduced as much fiction—and partly because it (sensibly) chose to omit sequences like Onler’s father’s assassination by militants, which could have been dramatized like the Partition sequence of Milkha.

Laxmi Negi of Rediff met Mary’s husband Onler Kom to sift fact from fiction.

Negi quoted Onler as saying, "It is not easy to showcase Mary's 12 years in boxing [into a two-hour movie]. If they take everything into account, it would have been a 24 hour movie!"

Rs.900 for 45 seconds with the noble underground boxer

Onler says: ‘Mary never fought for money.’

Fights with ‘eve-teasers’ in the village

Onler: ‘She did pick fights with the boys in the village if they teased her.’

The emotional coach Mr [Narjit] Singh who abandons Mary her after she tells him that she is getting married

Onler points out: ‘Mary did not just have one coach. [Thus, Mr. nameless Singh was a dramatised composite of Mary’s many coaches.]

‘Her first coach M Narjit Singh, national coach Anup Kumar and other assistant coaches were with her for almost a decade.

‘The [coaches] all asked me to let her concentrate on boxing. When we got married, we did rub the coaches the wrong way.’

Mary's first pregnancy

Onler: ‘The part where Mary wears all her medals when she is pregnant is exactly what happened.

‘It was an unplanned pregnancy. I lost my father in December 2006 and we came to know about Mary's pregnancy in January. We were surprised and excited at the same time.

‘Mary thought her career was over. But after delivery, when she desired to box again, I was with her.

‘Our relatives and her former coaches tried to put her down, saying she is finished. But Mary told me, 'If you are with me, I can become a champion again.'’

Onler’s telephone call that made Mary lose the match

In Mary Kom the Indian champion is about to fight in the finals of the World Championship when Onler calls her from a Gurgaon hospital to tell her that their son has a hole in his heart. Mary almost loses the championship. She is mauled very badly throughout, because she is depressed about her child, and recovers only towards the end.

The entire audience felt that Onler could have informed her after the match, because that telephone call did not help the child any. Many viewers condemned Onler for his immaturity/

Onler’s version: ‘When Mary was in Ningbo, China, I learned that there was a hole in our son's heart. I spoke to then chief coach Anup Kumar and requested him to let Mary come to India straight after the final bout. I was in touch with Mary every half hour.

‘Unlike what was shown in the movie, the operation happened in Chandigarh and our son was in the ICU when Mary was fighting her final bout. Our son was operated after Mary had sealed the gold medal against her name.’

‘I'm not sure about the knockout punch that Mary delivered to seal the fate of the final bout. The director might have added it for masala.’

Sharma ji

Obviously there was no Sharma ji in real life. He, too, is a composite of all the evil sports federation officials of India.

How a Punjabi acquired north-eastern looks

Priyanka Chopra acquires north eastern features. Our sources are: Scoop Whoop and Bollywood Life. Their source seems to be make up genius Mark Garbarino. However, finally Priyanka was not given an NE look and she looked more of a mayang. Not a problem, because the film has generated so much goodwill for Mary Kom and Manipur, in that order.

Adarsh (Scoop Whoop) and Bollywood Life tell (and show) us (see pictures) how the Punjabi Priyanka Chopra was transformed into i) an athlete, and ii) a mongoloid north-easterner:

They write: “The film makers got Hollywood make-up artist Mark Garbarino to give Priyanka an "oriental look." He did a prosthetic makeover by giving her heavier eyelids. But the film makers were worried that the prosthetics would not hold while shooting action heavy boxing bouts.

“Instead, they opted for a special effects solution from Shah Rukh Khan's visual effects studio, Red Chillies VFX.”

'Magnificent Manipur' in Mary Kom

Mary Kom, the film, is the best introduction to Manipur for non-Manipuris. And it is as powerful PR for the state as Gandhi was among international audiences that did not know India.

i) First of all Manipur is shown as a sporty state. Muscular young men and handsome, athletic women practice even in the small towns. The state produces sportsmen because they are backed by a huge base of supportive spectators. Mary Kon, the boxer, did not emerge from a vacuum. Her father was a wrestler, and her boyfriend, later husband, a football player.

ii) The emphasis in Manipur is on manliness—and high values. The champion boxer is a man whose word is as solid as his punches.

iii) The sign 'Magnificent Manipur' is deliberately focussed upon. This is like the free publicity that a non-Indian film will give India and Indian tourism by focussing on an Incredible !ndia poster.

iv) Long and, for non-Manipuris, complicated Kom names were taken to mayang audiences for first time (Mary’s name and her children’s)—and respectfully.

v) Non-Manipuris learned for the first time that mother is called Ima and wife is called Thoi. It is good to teach a few non-Hindi but Indian words in every film.

vi) Manipuri folk music was used in the prelude to a song and introduced to national audiences.

vii) Manipur has been shown as a pretty, hilly state. This is bound to attract tourists to the state—though the places shown are not actually in Manipur.

viii) The dance of the Kom community was nice, but has been shown before on ceremonial occasions like Republic Day and on national television. However, showing it again, though fleetingly, was a salute to Kom/ Manipuri culture.

ix) Yes, Manipur has an underground and it has curfews. However, the militants include a champion boxer who is a man of high principles. The militants are shown to be humane when required.

In all, not only is the film a hagiography of Mary Kom, the boxer, it is uncritical of its depiction of Manipur. Mary’s coach—a Meitei Singh—has been depicted as an ideal, but tough and humane person and a mentor every athlete should have.

Why was a mayang chosen over a Manipuri/ North Easterner?

Many ‘mayang’ (non-Manipuri) Indian journalists who love North East India protested that the role of Mary Kom should have gone to a north eastern actress, not Priyanka Chopra.

NE-loving mayang journalists called the decision to cast Priyanka Chopra ‘cultural chauvinism.’ They interviewed Lin Laishram, Bala Hijam et al, who seemed to agree.

Laishram went to the extent of saying, “Ideally, a Manipuri actor or someone from the Northeast should have been cast. But this is neither the fault of the production house nor the director. It is India. It is simply not prepared to accept someone like us on the big screen – so very racially different from them.’’. [Indian Express

Writing in Quartz, [2] Aseem Chhabra suggested that the following could have played Mary instead:

i) Geetanjali Thapa? the Sikkim-born rising international actress from India. (Indpaedia believes that at the rate at which Geetanjali is going, by 2016 or 17 she will be as well-known as Chopra, and is far more stunning. But in 2013, when Mary Kom, the film went into production this delicate-looking beauty was absolutely unknown. Even in 2014, after her national award and international success, she was known only to niche audiences.)

ii) Bala Hijam: Indpaedia hails her as India’s only pan-Indian actresses (Manipuri/ Malayalam/ Hindi-Urdu). She is the individual whose profile is visited most on Indpaedia. Indpaedia’s editors personally update the pages of only Bala Hijam and Salman Khan (who is the no.2 favourite of Indpaedia readers, partly because Indpaedia posted his profile a year after Indpaedia-favourite Bala’s). However, petite Bala does not have Mary Kom’s physique or on-the-ring aggression. Despite her unreleased Zindagi on the rocks and Neelakasham… she remains a niche name for the majority of Indian audineces.

iii) Masochon V Zimik, who was one of the hockey players in the Yash Raj mega-hit Chak De India. (She has the physique but is hardly a box-office draw even in her own region.) The only biography of Masochon V Zimik anywhere on the Web or in print is on Indiapedia, painstakingly constructed by a mayang archivist.

iv) Karen Shenaz David The Canadian stage actress (who acted in the Broadway musical Bombay Dreams) was born in Shillong. An extremely good looking, delicate-featured actress, but again unknown to the audiences from whom Mary Kom, the film will recover its costs.

[Indian Express suggested:

i) Lin Laishram Despite Bala Hijam being the queen of Indpaedia, Indpaedia feels that the tall Lin (who is Indpaedia’s no.2 from the North East), with her athletic background, would have been the best choice if only a Manipuri/ North Eastern had to be chosen. She is reasonably well known nationally as a model. However, Lin should realise that even with Chopra Mary Kom, the film is a ‘multiplex’ film (i.e. meant for well-heeled, well-educated audiences). A film with Lin as Mary Kom would have been an arthouse film for even more limited ‘intellectual’ audiences. Indpaedia does not carry a torch for Chopra—we started our page on her more than a year after our page on Bala and Tonthoi, and months after our pages on Lin, Kethose, Sushmita, Esther et al. however, Indpaedia would recommend a Filmistan superstar, regardless of race (e.g. the British-born Katrina Kaif) over even Lin, because the yardstick is commercial viability. If Mary Kom, the film had opted for a mayang (non-Manipuri) actress who was lesser known than Lin or Bala, Indpaedia would have protested, because then the criterion would obviously have been race.

ii) Bala Hijam

iii) Geetanjali Thapa

iv) Tonthoi Leisangthem

No Indian media-outlet has proved its commitment to and love for the north-east in general and Manipur in particular as Indpaedia has. Though archived by mayangs from New Delhi, Indpaedia consciously made its debut in 2013 mainly with articles about the north-east in general and Manipur in particular.

Bala Hijam is the reigning queen of Indpaedia, followed (in Sept 2014, when the film was released), in order, by Lin Laishram, Sushmita Devi Mangsatabam, Esther Jamir, Kethose Nagi, Mary Kom herself, Akuonuo Khezhie, Tonthoi Leisangthem, Ketho Leno Kense; Delphine Marbaniang and so many more, not to mention general articles about the north east. Indpaedia is consciously promoting Manipur/ the North East, as its archivist does through his day job. These articles are written by Indpaedia’s mayang/ wai/ dakaar archivist sitting in Delhi.

However, India went through a similar debate around 1980 when the Government of India decided to finance Sir Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982). There were petty objections from India's Filmistan. They wanted an Indian director to direct the film, an Indian to play the Mahatma and so on.

The questions then were and still are: If the Moguls of India’s Filmistan had crores to make inane potboilers, who stopped them from making a film on Gandhi? Had any Indian applied to the Government of India for finances to make a film on Gandhi? Is it more important to project Gandhi ji or to satisfy one Indian director and one Indian actor? Would a film about Gandhi attract more international audiences and Oscars and other international laurels if made by Attenborough (whom the world knew) or by Shyam Benegal (whom mass audiences did not)? Would Attenborough bring more international goodwill for India through Gandhi, the film, or, say, Shyam Benegal?

The same is true of Mary Kom, the film.

Manipuri producers make potboilers. Who stopped them from making at least a low-budget video film on Mary Kom? Had any Manipuri/ North Easterner applied to Doordarshan/ NFDC for finances to make a film on Mary? (In any case, Mary Kom, the film, was financed privately. Therefore, who are we to dictate terms to the producer and go against his commercial judgement?) Is it more important to project Mary or to satisfy one Manipuri/ North Eastern director and one Manipuri/ North Eastern actress? Would a film about Mary Kom attract more national and international audiences and laurels if played by Priyanka (whom most of India knows) or by Lin Laishram (whom mass audiences do not)? Would Chopra bring more national and international goodwill for Manipur through Mary Kom, the film, or, say, Bala/ Lin/ Geetanjali?

Mary Kom, the film will not be exhibited in Manipur, the state’s xenophobic militants have declared. Since the film is for the rest of India, and specifically barred from Manipur, what is the point in casting a Manipuri actress?

Do the Koms, too, want only Manipuris to portray them?

Only Mary Kom can decide who should play her: Chopra or a Manipuri/ North Eastern actress.

In all her interviews Mary has praised Priyanka Chopra’s performance.

Husband Onler Kom tackled the issue head on. He told Laxmi Negi, Rediff

“A lot of people have criticised the movie for not picking up Manipuri actors. But actors in Manipur do not look like Mary or Onler. There is only one Mary Kom and there is only one Onler. There is no one like us.

“We do not have twin brothers and sisters who are actors!

“More than looks, acting is important. That is why actors like Priyanka and Darshan work in favour of the movie.

Laxmi Negi, RediffAlso, with Priyanka's striking resemblance to Mary in some parts of the movie, I was able to convince [my children] that she is their second 'mama.'

Onler has become a household name across India because of the film.

Indpaedia genuinely loves the people of Manipur and North East—the people as a whole, who are bigger than individuals. If an important road or prestigious school or stadium or any important project is to be built in Manipur/ the North East it is important to get the best contractor available at that price—and not bother about whether he is Manipuri/ North Eastern or even Indian. The people of Manipur/ the North East who will use that road/ building are more important than the profits of one Manipuri/ North Eastern contractor. And we say the same for every state of India, indeed of national projects as well.

(What was so delightful about this whole controversy was that so many mayang journalists and publications had stuck their necks out for Manipur and the North East. While Indpaedia differs from them on the Gandhi and local contractor principles. it prays that may the tribe of such NE-loving journalists and mayangs in general increase.)

Lesser known facts

Lesser known facts of Priyanka Chopra's Mary Kom

The Times of India

Mary Kom has also given Priyanka Chopra a few tips on the film, which seemed to have helped the actress go through her journey of playing a boxer. Mary Kom in an interview with The Times of India said, "I met Priyanka in Mumbai, much before she came to Manipur, during which time we spoke at length. When she came to Manipur, she knew about boxing so I gave her tips as a mother and a wife, how I went about managing my home and profession, how I live with my family — basically she got to know aspects about my family life."

The makeup also for Mary Kom was very complicated for the actress. According to a report on The Times of India, Priyanka also suffered an injury while shooting for the film. "Priyanka was filming a boxing scene with an actor from the North-East. She fell on the floor due to the impact. She got the shot spot on, so director Omung Kumar decided to retain it. The cut mark that you will eventually see on screen under her eye is real but we did touch it up with makeup to make it look deeper," says Uday Shirale, who has been working on Priyanka's look, according to the report.

Mary Kom is a biopic of a boxer, and according to a report on The Times of India, there will be some soulful singing done by Priyanka in this movie.

Priyanka has always maintained that Mary Kom was one of the hardest films of her career. And that she had to sweat it out in the gym to achieve the perfect physique to portray the Indian boxer onscreen. Her transformation had to be made from the glamorous actress to a hard hitting sportsperson. Priyanka Chopra had stated on a social networking site that Mary Kom was the hardest film of her life and that it took her two years of determination taught by the guru, Mary Kom herself.

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