MUKKABAAZ PACKS A PUNCH

Ac­tor Vineet Ku­mar Singh takes a shot at Bol­ly­wood fame with Anurag Kashyap’s up­com­ing Mukkabaaz

India Today - - LEISURE - —Suhani Singh

Vineet Ku­mar Singh is not only the pro­tag­o­nist of Anurag Kashyap’s up­com­ing film, Mukkabaaz. He’s also the co-writer and lyri­cist of the box­ing movie. The 37-year-old ac­tor has ap­peared in Kashyap’s Gangs of Wassey­pur and Ugly, as well as the Bom­bay Talkies short Murabba. But Mukkabaaz could make him a star: Singh is riv­et­ing in his por­trayal of a boxer whose dreams are stymied by a ruth­less up­per caste coach (Jimmy Shergill).

Singh and his co-writer Mukti Singh (his sis­ter) set out to present “the pain, the dif­fi­cul­ties and rough in­ner world” of sportsmen, he says. Un­like most Bol­ly­wood sports movies, Mukkabaaz is nei­ther up­lift­ing nor pa­tri­otic. It de­liv­ers a vi­cious left hook with its hard-hit­ting de­pic­tion of the strug­gles of an ath­lete in Bareilly—shin­ing a light on the casteism and cor­rup­tion that snatches op­portu-

ni­ties from tal­ented sportsmen. Like Sylvester Stal­lone, who penned Rocky to make him­self a star, Singh came up with Mukkabaaz—to be re­leased on Jan­uary 12—to give him­self the big break that had eluded him so far. “The kind of work I wanted to do was not com­ing my way,” says Singh, an ayurveda doc­tor who moved to Mum­bai in 1999 af­ter win­ning a TV tal­ent con­test, Su­per­Star. He shopped the script around for three years be­fore knock­ing on Kashyap’s door in 2015. Kashyap agreed, so long as he got to add his own per­spec­tive to the script and Singh com­mit­ted to do the phys­i­cal train­ing needed to make him look con­vinc­ing.

“The way he trusts his ac­tors, I love work­ing in that space,” says Singh. He moved to Pa­tiala in 2016 to train along­side box­ers for nearly a year. “I re­quested Vi­jen­der Singh to put me in touch with a coach there [Harpreet Singh] and asked him not to tell them I was an ac­tor,” he says. “Oth­er­wise I’d be treated dif­fer­ently and wouldn’t be able to learn.”

Singh, who is from a fam­ily of aca­demics in Varanasi, says his friends laughed when he first spoke of his Bol­ly­wood dream. He has bro­ken piggy banks, encashed in­sur­ance poli­cies and sold jew­ellery to keep it go­ing—work­ing with Ma­hesh Man­jrekar on six films. It’s that strug­gle as much as the boxer’s physique forged in Pa­tiala that gives him the pres­ence to carry the film. “The fam­ily has been wait­ing for my suc­cess,” he says. “Maybe Mukkabaaz is the film that gives them sat­is­fac­tion and be­lief.”

SINGH, WHO HAILS FROM VARANASI, HAS BRO­KEN PIGGY BANKS, ENCASHED IN­SUR­ANCE POLI­CIES AND SOLD JEW­ELLERY TO KEEP HIS FILM CA­REER GO­ING

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