A biopic on Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, who is a five times World Boxing Champion and an Olympic medalist, will soon hit the screens next month on 5th September across the country. But how many knew MC Mary Kom or Mary Kom before the trailer featuring Priyanka Chopra was released months back. It took a Bollywood film with names such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Priyanka Chopra to grab attention of the entire nation. The film titled Mary Kom instantly garnered more than a million hits on its trailer since its release on YouTube.
Much has been written on the authenticity of the characters played by Priyanka Chopra as Mary Kom. Many even wrote on how actors hailing from the northeastern region should have been cast in the lead role.
That aside, this biopic will show Mary Kom as an Indian boxer who hails from Manipur’s Kangathei village and who fights all odds to be the champion she is today. Speaking to Manipur Times, Saiwyn Quadras who has written the screenplay of Mary Kom said that the challenge was not to make the film look like a documentary and yet to make it look as real as possible. He has written the film in a way that it showed the struggles she went through as a woman sportsperson who had to wade through opposition from her father, politics and eventually making a comeback after a long career break.
Saiwyn has been writing for almost ten years now, initially for non-fiction television. It has been six years since he forayed into writing for films. Mary Kom is his maiden film and he considers himself fortunate and takes pride in the fact that he is part of making of the film Mary Kom.
Saiwyn has been following her story in the sports pages and the web, which later helped him write her story. “I have been following Mary Kom’s exploits on the international stage for almost a decade now. I read about her victories in small corners of the sports section. I remember reading about how she struggled her way up to reach where she was and how her struggle was still ongoing,” adds Saiwyn.
It occurred to him that despite Mary Kom’s achievements as a boxer, she is not really known in the country. And that’s when he started writing the script of the film in 2011 and took two years to complete. He approached Omung Kumar with Mary Kom’s story of her struggle and achievements. Omung who is making his directorial debut with it had not heard of Mary Kom before, but was amazed at the fact that a world champion boxer was not known in the country by majority of the Indians like him. The same year when he started writing the script, he arranged a meeting with Mary Kom with the help of her manager, Jimmy. She could hardly believe that a Bollywood film is going to be based on her life.
Saiwyn’s research for Mary Kom was done through content available online, newspaper archives, online videos, telephonic interactions and emails with Mary and Jimmy. What struck him first about Mary Kom was her appearance which was in contrast to her feisty self once in the ring. She was stylishly dressed and her affinity for nail-art, her girly nature and forthright and honest demeanour was what surprised Saiwyn. Mary Kom in her interactions with Saiwyn and Omung, was very honest and forthcoming when it came to the details of her life and became a significant input in the screenplay that Saiwyn was writing.
Ever since the trailer of Mary Kom was released, many raised doubts that Priyanka Chopra has no resemblance to Mary Kom’s ethnicity and this might make the film look unrealistic. Saiwyn has a different view on this. He says Mary Kom is an Indian first and this film will open the eyes of many Indians. He further says that Mary Kom’s home state is an Indian state. He says the aim of the film is to show her story to the world and concentrating on the ethnicity is not significant. According to him, the efforts made by everyone who are part of the film should not be belittled with speculations and Priyanka Chopra who plays Mary Kom has put in her best and has worked hard as much as she can.
Expectations are high and speculations are inevitable when the film is about an Indian woman sportsperson who has been through a lot of struggle and is now a World Champion. The biopic is also significant because she hails from the remote part of the country, a village of Manipur. We will see actors from Manipur and Assam portraying prominent roles in the film. Model and actor, Lin Laishram will be playing Mary Kom’s childhood friend and a boxer in the film. Other actors, like Rajni Basumatary and Kenny Basumatary also play key roles in the film. Will this help talented actors like them break the ethnic discrimination they face in the mainstream film and modeling industry? Mary Kom may also bridge the disconnect that exists between the Northeast and the rest of India. With just a week left before the film’s release, excitement is building up in the entertainment sector. The unfortunate part is that the film that is based on a woman sportsperson from Manipur will not be released here. We still do not know if the underground organizations in the state will make an exception and allow the film to be released.
Indira Akoijam freelances with Manipur Times and is currently working with a media research house in New Delhi. For feedback, write to firstname.lastname@example.org