The girl can act. It’s true. Priyanka Chopra seems to have given her all to bring the character and story of Mary Kom, an Indian boxing legend, spring to life on the silverscreen. Were it not for her convincing portrayal, I probably wouldn’t have really become aware of, let alone appreciate, the struggle of this woman in a male-dominated society and in a country that places little value on the beauty and power of sports in general, and sports played by a woman, in particular.
In addition to offering us a lively account of Mary Kom’s life and struggles to make her name in the sport of boxing, the film is also a window into the northeast corner of India – into the beautiful place and people that call the state of Manipur, home.
Although having been born and raised in India, I have had practically zero-exposure to anything Manipuri, and looked on in amazement at the portrayal of poverty-stricken rural life in Manipur. It matters not that the movie might have been shot in neighboring Imphal; what matters is the accurate portrayal of the life of the people in a land that has all but forgotten them.
Another sad fact that was illuminated is the callous attitude of the Indian government’s policies and practices that do little to build and support athletes and sports infrastructures in a country of a billion people. Is it not a shame that so little emphasis is placed on nurturing the children and youth of the land to seek out their potential to possibly excel in so many individual and team sports?
And so, in light of all this, to see a young woman rise up against all odds to make her family, her state, and her country proud, is indeed a cause célèbre – one that will, I hope, make young girls everywhere sit up and take notice, and perhaps give themselves permission to dream and hope for a more equitable, brighter, and vibrant future in the field of sports.
Ms. Chopra certainly is the star of the film, and rightfully so, although her husband in the story does a fine job of supporting her professional ambitions even as he more than shares all parenting responsibilities. Another note to self: I wonder if the average Indian male is paying attention…
Sure, there’s a touch of melodrama, Bollywood-style, but hey, so what? If that adds to the appeal of the story and brings in the masses, why ever not?
And as a far sidebar, I enjoyed very much the beautiful vistas of the Manali area – a most beautiful part of Himachal Pradesh, another state within India, that rivals the Swiss Alps in beauty and grandeur with the great Beas flowing right through the city.