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