Mukkabaaz: Vineet Kumar Singh on what it took to execute Anurag Kashyap's gritty sports drama

Abhishek Srivastava

January 07, 2018 15:27:44 IST

Vineet Kumar Singh does not come across as someone who has his footprints in Bollywood. The chiseled slender appearance coupled with stubble gives him a look that befits someone with a technical know-how. Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz will mark his cinematic journey as a lead actor.

When I meet Vineet, attired in a denim shirt and jeans, at a café, the first thing he informs me is that he has come cycling to the venue because he had sold all his belongings including his car before the shooting of Mukkabaaz commenced. His last appearance four years ago was for a character role in Ugly. So what is the reason behind this long gap?

Vineet Kumar Singh in a still from Mukkabaaz. Image from Eros

Vineet Kumar Singh in a still from Mukkabaaz. Image from Eros

Vineet explains, after he gets comfortable taking his first sip of the ginger beetroot mocktail, “When the shooting of Ugly got over in December 2013, technically my work in the film was over. After that, whatever offer came my way was in the same space as Danish Khan of Gangs of Wasseypur or Chaitanya Mishra of Ugly or Bombay Talkies for that matter. The roots of all the roles that were being offered to me lay in these roles. I often mulled over the thought that what was my initial dream that brought me to this city.”

It was in 1999 when Vineet, once a national Basketball player, first came to Mumbai to try his luck in Bollywood but as fate would have it, the initial 17 years were punctuated with inconsequential roles in films like Pitah, Crook and several others. The paucity of good offers forced Vineet to write his own script along with his sister Mukti and a friend. The next step was to approach filmmakers to make a film on the subject with the condition that he would play the lead in the film. “When no good roles were coming my way, the thought of writing script occurred to me. My sister has done her PhD in physical education and thus, her area too is related to sports. Together, we wrote many drafts and then started approaching producers. Most of them liked the script but also laid the condition that I should do another role and not the lead role.”

When the entire process got stretched for more than three years, then things started making Vineet jittery. There was also a phase when things were on the verge of consolidation but the very thought that he had not trained himself in the art of boxing made him pull back. It was at this juncture he thought of approaching Kashyap. “I did not approach Anurag before because after the shoot of Ugly, he had told me that he was not going to do any film with me in future because all my acting facets were already explored in three films. I had no courage to approach him. I only wanted his feedback and incorporate his ideas in the script of Mukkabaaz and then pitch it at his own production house.”

Anurag did call him after few days and in a very clinical fashion, announced his decision of directing the film. “It was a shock to me and it all seemed like a dream. Anurag only had two conditions before me – he will make the film only if I were to become a boxer and second was to incorporate changes in the script.”

The seeds of Mukkabaaz are autobiographical for Vineet. He vividly recalls an incident about his senior. The incident to this day brings tears to his eyes and was something that really shook him up. It all happened at the Varanasi railway station. “He was an excellent sportsman. I once saw him at the railway station carrying a huge trunk on his head, which was forward tilted only to ensure that no one could see his face. I recognized him but changed my course as I did not want him to face any sort of embarrassing situation.”

The commencement of Mukkabaaz was also the beginning for another ordeal for the actor as it forced him to sell all his homely belongings only to ensure that he had money to pursue his boxing training in Patiala. The four-year hiatus from camera had ensured that he had no money in his pocket. A call from Anurag to Olympian boxer Vijender Singh helped him connect to a coach and made certain there were no further hiccups.

Despite winning a talent hunt contest in 1999, the road to stardom remained elusive to this qualified doctor for 17 years. Though the trophy helped him bag an acting offer from Mahesh Manjrekar, one of the judges at the contest, nothing much came out of it. “I used to travel frequently from Nagpur to Mumbai and often stayed at Poddar Medical College with my friends. It was a difficult phase as I struggled to maintain a balance between minimum attendances at my Nagpur Medical College, doing small roles in films and keeping himself safe from sudden checks of the hostel warden at Poddar Medical College. The monsoons used to be painful as I would spent hours wrapped in towel on the terrace of the hostel only to protect myself from warden’s prying eyes.”

Vineet is happy that his parents are now at peace now when he has finally found his footing. It is a far cry from the days when the dreary question “aakpa doctor beta Mumbai mein aajkal kar kya raha hai” used to haunt his parents. A lot is at stake for him with Mukkabaaz but Vineet Kumar Singh, as he likes to be called, believes that the film will surely deliver a knockout punch.

Updated Date: Jan 07, 2018 15:27 PM