“Bhag Milkha Bhag”, the 2013 biographical film about legendary Indian athlete Milkha Singh was an international super hit. It grossed over one billion Indian rupees. Now, a biopic on female Indian boxer Mary Kom is about to hit the silver screen.
Mary Kom has the unique distinction of being the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships including no less than five golds.
However, it was her bronze medal at the London 2012 (where women boxing made its Olympic debut) that has earned her fame throughout South Asia. The only female boxer from India to qualify, she competed in the fly weight (51kg) class.
In this part of the world, where women’s participation in combat games especially boxing and wrestling is not much encouraged, Mary Kom’s achievements are amazing.
Born in India’s North Eastern state of Manipur in a poor Christian farming family, Mary Kom, who stands 5 feet 2 inches, was originally interested in athletics but inspired by the fellow Manipur boxer Dingko Singh, who won the gold medal at the 1998 Asian Games, she got attracted to boxing. To achieve her dreams, she moved to Imphal, the capital of Manipur.
There she contacted Kosana Meitei, the coach at the Sports Authority of India. Meitei recalls her hard work and dedication, “She used to practice punches late into the night when everyone else had long gone to sleep.”
Her first title came at the state level sub-junior boxing championship in 2000- she was also adjudged the best boxer. Very next year, she was a silver medallist at the Women’s World Amateur Boxing Championships in Scranton, USA. There has been no looking back since then.
Mary Kom’s much awaited biography ‘Unbreakable’ was published a few months back.
In the movie ‘Mary Kom’, Bollywood superstar Priyanka Chopra is playing the lead role.
Priyanka Chopra had never played the role of a sportswoman; only appeared in glamorous characters or that of a girl next door. “I never thought I will play an athlete or I can become an athlete. I didn’t know anything about sports. Besides, who would have thought that a girl can develop muscles and biceps, but that happened with me” — a la Farhan Akhtar who played the lead role in “Bhag Milkha Bhag”.
The film’s producer is Sanjay Leela Bhansali who has given epics like Devdas, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, 1942 – A Love story, Black, among others. It has been directed by Omung Kumar, who also directed Bhansali’s Black and Saawirya.
Umar says he has tried to keep the story real despite taking creative liberty to depict the boxing champion’s life story on celluloid. “We have tried to bring 10-12 years of her (Mary) life on screen within two hours and within that we have taken few liberties. But otherwise the film is a close depiction of her life”.
The sequences of sports action have been coordinated by none other than Rob Miller of ReelSports who was also the sports action director for Chak De India and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
Priyanka Chopra also went through an extensive 10 days schedule to train for the role of a boxer.
She visited Mary Kom in Manipur to learn more about her life. As Mary Kom states, “Priyanka already knew about boxing. She was interested in my family life. How I lived with my family? “ Now 31, Mary Kom is married to Onkholer Kom and has twin sons.
Priyanka Chopra even suffered an injury during the film’s shooting. A boxing scene with an actor from the North-East was being filmed and she fell on the floor due to the impact. The director Omung Kumar decided to retain the shot as he found it spot on. The cut mark that viewers will eventually see on screen under her eye would be real though made to look deeper through some make up.
The biopic of the sports heroine of our own times is widely expected to receive the same acclaim as did ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’. Irrespective, the film is a success or not, Mary Kom has already achieved a lot at the global and continental events.
At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, she was given the honour along with two other Indian sports persons to bear the King’s Baton in the opening ceremony. She did not compete, however, as women’s boxing was not part of the Commonwealth Games until then. For her Bronze medal alone at the 2012 Olympics, Mary Kom received a number of monetary awards. Her home state Manipur’s government also awarded her with land.