As Southpaw releases internationally this weekend, we track the boxing film genre in Hollywood and back home
This year sees all the action in the boxing ring.At Cannes in May, distributors acquired Bleed For This for nearly $4 million, a film produced by Martin Scorsese (who directed Robert De Niro in the pugilistic classic, Raging Bull). Later this year, there is Creed, which will reinvent the Rocky franchise. And this weekend, Southpaw, the year’s first boxing drama, is slated for a worldwide release, featuring a ripped Jake Gyllenhaal in what promises to be a bloody battle. Our home-grown films are not far behind. While we await R Madhavan’s bi-lingual, Irudhi Suttru (Saala Khadoos in Hindi), where he plays a boxing coach, there is Jayam Ravi’s upcoming Booloham. Ravi reportedly took professional boxing lessons to nail the role of a North Madras boxer. As for Bollywood, the buzz has begun over Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra’s boxing flick, Brothers. We get the pros to let us in on the act.
“Indian cinema is yet to see a boxing film that matches up to the brilliance of a Rocky, which concentrated solely on the sport. I am sure Madhavan will set a new high with Irudhi Suttru. Despite physical injuries, he’s beefed up for his character and is doing the drill that is required to get into shape. That is laudable. My ultimate dream is to remake Rocky in Tamil, with Ajith playing the role of Sylvester Stallone.”
Director, Mary Kom
“Most people would rather not go for a boxing film, as they might not be fans of the sport and term it an ‘action flick’. But centering a film on the boxer and his/her journey, as I did with Mary Kom, makes the story far more interesting because there is a human connect. The audience begins rooting for the boxer more if we angle
the story on the person’s back story and conflicts more, and keep the sport as incidental. I love Cinderella Man because it connects a lot like a human story.”
“I have previously done a film on boxing, M Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi. Preparing for Booloham, where I play a North-Madras boxer, took nearly two months and the filming went on for a year. I had to get professional training with instructor Madan to gain the physique, which began with putting on 15 kilos. Learning the right punches is a task that requires a lot of practice.
“An artiste needs to prepare for months to get into the character and the physique of a boxer, and that is not done in Indian cinema. Here, we concentrate on making our heroes look larger than life, so the punches are designed to look appealing on camera rather than authentic, unlike Hollywood films such as Cinderella Man where they recorded the fight sequences live. But I believe Jayam Ravi, has done his homework and worked hard to get into his character for Booloham. I think Vikram
can also pull off a film centered solely around the sport.”
Actor, Maan Karate
“Maan Karate did not start off as a film on boxing. We added boxing for an emotional connect, but the response from the youth was overwhelming. A sports shop owner in Trichy reported that he sold nearly half his stock of boxing gloves after the film released. A film on boxing alone would never hold the audience’s attention. You must have an emotion—of family, revenge or love—and weave the sport around it.