While, off late, Bollywood have witnessed many sports movies, very few have been so focused on the sport as Dangal. Meticulously detailed to perfection – as expected from Aamir Khan, Dangal scores on almost every aspect – be it detailing, story telling, entertainment value, drama or humor. The last sports movie that was closest to this one was Chak De India.
In the backdrop of Hindi heartland state Haryana, the story depicts the struggle of a father against the rampant and age old gender discrimination in India, especially in the northern belt, to get his daughters into the wrestling, something which is considered a male-only profession, to fulfill his dream of winning the gold for the country. He himself was a part of that brigade, thinking that only a male child can fulfill his dream, before he realized two things – winning a gold for the country is not a privilege of men and his daughters have a wrestler’s blood running in them. The story depicts his fight – socially, financially as well as administratively (with the sports authorities) – to enable his talented daughters bring gold medal home. While the story is impressive, the best part is the details that doesn’t restrict itself to Mahavir Singh Phogat but goes beyond to touch issues around the social exploitation of women, gender based discrimination, the mentality of treating girl child as a baggage, the male-child mania, the state of sports infrastructure in the country, the importance of a right coach for a sportsperson and even religious harmony. However, it also depicts something wrong in the Indian society which is the obsession of Indian parents’ using their children to fulfill their dreams.
The story largely revolves around Mahavir Singh Phogat, played by Aamir Khan and his elder daughter Geeta Phogat, the child version played by Zaira Wasim and the elder version played by Fatima Sana Sheikh. The evolution of the relationship is shown beautifully and something to look forward to in the movie.
After Dear Zindagi, this is another movie where we see the Khans taking a back seat and allowing the newbies to be in the limelight. The movie saw a lot more of Zaira Wasim in the beginning and Fatima Sana Sheikh later. Famita looks very authentic as wrestler during the fight scenes and her acting otherwise as well, is very impressive. Some of the emotional scenes between Aamir Khan and Fatima Sana Sheikh are really well executed without any melodrama. Aamir Khan shines in the role of Mahavir Singh Phogat. His commitment on keeping an original body in both the versions of Mahavir Singh (young and old) along with hours of training on physical fitness and wrestling pays off really well. Sakshi Tanwar plays a very noticeable role with multiple projections of an apologetic wife in the beginning who turns into a strong homemaker and a mother who tries every bit to draw line when her husband’s obsession becomes a nightmare for her kids, especially with a fragile relationship of her husband and her eldest daughter. Sanya Malhotra, playing the younger daughter, did a pretty great job. Even with less than a minute of wrestling time in the movie, she looked more formidable than Fatima. The other supporting characters of Aparshakti Khurrana, playing Mahavir Singh’s nephew, and Girish Kulkarni, the national coach, have done a decent job.
The lead cast’s hard work on learning wrestling to make the entire movie look very authentic and the command over the Haryanvi accent brought the movie to life.
The direction of the movie has been spot on. The movie has been extremely focused on wrestling unlike other sports movies like MS Dhoni, Mary Kom, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag which had unnecessary side plots and diversions. This is something which worked for Chak De India as well. From the first scene till the last, the director kept the hero of the movie as wrestling, which makes it very enjoyable throughout the 161 minutes. Although some of the details have been altered from the real life to increase the entertainment value, none of them seemed unnecessary or disconnected from the story. The clever use of humor and capitalizing on the Haryanvi accent and words was great. Interestingly, for the scenes that had narration voice in the background, the director chose Omkar’s (Mahavir Singh’s nephew) view to bring an unbiased perspective, which has worked well (same approach used for Dil Dhadakne Do). The climax is where the director lost his grip a little with some unbelievable sequences that didn’t make sense.
Normally, I don’t put music section while rating the movie but Dangal has the kind of music that is really enjoyable as the movie proceeds. The lyrics, in particular, of the songs like “Haanikarak Bapu”, “Dhakkad” and the title track are so apt to the story-line and the songs are woven into the movie very seamlessly. Great work by Pritam in the music and Amitabh Bhattacharya in penning down the lyrics.
Overall, it’s a great movie to watch, especially for the Aamir Khan lovers, and for the general public to understand, not just the wrestling, but the struggles our athletes overcome on their journey to win medals for the country.