By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | December 23, 2016

Rating: 4.5 / 5


The essence: Dangal may not be a Lagaan but it does have its soul in the right place and fire in its belly. The movie not only celebrates a neglected sport in India, it also celebrates girl power!

Viewed from a father’s perspective, Dangal fits in from all aspects. Viewed from a child’s perspective, it fits in too! Viewed from Aamir Khan’s perspective, Dangal is another feather in his cap, simply for the manner in which he has gone about the role of playing a father to make it believable, by loading on the kilos on his person.

Just once, when there is a glimpse of him as a young wrestler, you see Aamir Khan the star. Throughout the movie, you see Aamir Khan the actor!

Mahavir Singh Phogat wanted to give the nation a Gold medal at the international arena. His career was cut short after winning the Gold in the Nationals. Poor facilities and apathetic attitude by officials governing the sports body in Haryana ensured he did not go far. He could either feed his family or wrestle. He chose to work.

However, his dream now was to make sure his son would make India proud. Four girls, born one after the other, ensured that whatever hopes he had was dashed to the ground. A fight much later between his daughters and the neighbouring boys made him realise that wrestling indeed, did run in their veins.

From then on, the film moves on to showing the determination of the father to train his daughters, Geeta (Fatima Sana Shaikh) and Babita (Sanya Malhotra), their initial horror to the training regimen, the ridicule in their village, the medals coming in at local tournaments fighting with boys and finally the Gold at the Nationals for Geeta. From here, Nitesh Tiwari, adds that necessary Bollywood tadka to give a slight cinematic twist as Geeta gets into the National Sports Academy for her training through a qualified coach, her fall as a player and her ultimate rise.

Viewed from a father’s perspective, you see Mahavir doing what every father or parent would want for his child—to fulfill their unfulfilled dreams. From a child’s perspective, you see the urge to fight back, to revolt but ultimately understand the sacrifice that the father has put in, much later. Nitesh has interspersed instances from the early training days with crucial international bouts with telling effect. The fight at the 2010 Commonwealth Games brings into focus an incident when the girls ‘went swimming’. Then, they were shown shivering at home. Now, what actually transpired comes to the fore.

The fights have been captured to a nicety bringing onto the viewer a ‘live’ feel. Moreover, the sport has been beautifully packaged, educating viewers to its finer aspects. And with Sana and Fatima becoming the face of Geeta and Babita on screen, wrestling gets that dose of glamour, too.

Kudos to the production team for celebrating a sport which is never celebrated and bringing to the fore a sportsperson from Haryana and his determination to bring Indian wrestling onto the world map.

Though the film is a little under three hours, the emotional swings keeps one engrossed: Geeta’s arrogance once she moves into the NSA and Babita’s shock at her sister’s behaviour tell its own tale. So do the emotions of the slighted father who runs to his daughter’s rescue once she realizes her mistake. It all makes for a wonderful viewing. The soulful music with its heart-rending lyrics add that delicate touch to moments packed with emotions.

Aamir Khan has excelled yet again. But it is the manner in which the two girls who play Geeta and Babita (including Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar who play the child wrestlers) is what actually raises the level of the film several notches higher.

Fatima showcases the challenges that she has to fight ‘within’, with ease. Her emotions and expressions are spot on. Ditto Sanya, who lends commendable support without having the spotlight on her: from the sidelines she is able to draw the viewer to her.

Dangal may not be a Lagaan but it does have its soul in the right place and fire in its belly. The movie not only celebrates a neglected sport in India, it also highlights (without being preachy) the attitude of the people in power who give no help whatsoever to a sportsperson, but yet expect medals.

Dangal celebrates Wrestling. Dangal also celebrates girl power!

Producers: Siddharth Roy Kapur, Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Star Cast: Aamir Khan, Sanya Malhotra,  Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sakshi Tanwar

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