Thursday, December 29, 2016

DANGAL – Wrestling’s ‘Chak de India’ moment.

by -- Abhishek Law

“Woo hoo…. What a movie!”
“My head’s still reeling from the content….”
“Great movie. Aamir’s best.”
“You felt every thud on the mat…. That’s how Dangal was.’

Well these were some of the comments I heard when I came out of the hall after watching Dangal. And anyways social media is filled with praises. But, I’m willing to disappoint you all by saying that I do not share the same opinion and I pretty much disagree on some of these. However, the movie is wrestling’s “Chak De India” moment.


The story revolves around a Jat father and wrestler, Mahavir Singh Phogat, taking on society and social stigma associated with wrestling (by women). He ensures that his daughters make it big in the male-dominated world of wrestling. Of course, there are hiccups and these are overcome during the nearly 3 hr running time of the movie.


First, coming to the content.
It is a silver screen replication of a true story. So actually, I’m willing to discount the dramatization; and then take a look at the movie.
But, I am also a bit confused. Why are we going ga-ga over this content? 
It is a “real-life story” and I do not think there was much addition required to be made in the story-line; except dramatizing the sequences of course. 
(For example the Commonwealth fight of Geeta Phogat is available on YouTube and there you see that she won in straight sets virtually bulldozing her opponent. Nothing of the to-and-fro sway that we were made to see in the movie. And she had long hair, since that is a major issue in the movie.) 
We Indians are good at hyperbole. And filming an otherwise interesting story should then come easy to many of us.
And, I’m paying my hard earned money expecting content in the first place. I mean, it is like praising the police for stopping a petty theft. (Isn’t that what is supposed to happen in the first place? Please correct me if I sound illogical.)
But may be, since Bollywood is so good at pushing tasteless food (read movies) down our palates; I believe we are over-awed by anything logical coming our way.
Of course, you can argue – someone had to pick-up a story and make a sensible movie in the first place. In cricketing terms: “There’s a full toss (ball). But you still had to put it away.”
Agreed. But, then there is a counter logic: “At this level, you are expected to do that.”
Anyways throwing aside these arguments, I'm ready to grant director Nitish Tiwari an extra point for taking that pain. (Not that he should really bother about my points.) 
However, Dangal has many things going for it, to be very fair.

Movie Making
In terms of movie-making this is one of the best sports movie that Bollywood has dished out in recent times. No this is not a biopic on the Phogats, let me be clear on this. 
Look wrestling and mixed martial arts movies are starting to gain ground. Brothers, Sultan and now Dangal are, I feel,  a part of that larger trend.
We Indians, know nothing beyond cricket and football. And in football too, most of us are concerned about phoren (foreign) clubs. Keeping that at the back of our minds,  Dangal does a great job in talking about the sport of wrestling, tearing it down to the basic level of explaining even how points are scored or what happens in case of a tie. 
What really works for the movie, is the detailed creation of the right awareness on how exactly the game should be looked at from the eyes of a first time viewer (of wrestling of course). Especially, considering the multitudes (moviegoers) who have zero idea about the game. 
Sultan – the only other movie on wrestling in recent times – did not bother to get into these nuances. When a Mithun Chakraborty (Boxer) or an Ajay Devgn (Jigar) did sports-themed movies, the basic idea continued to be triumph of good over evil through revenge dramas. Sport was just a prop.
So my full marks to Dangal for breaking down the sport in an easy to understand language; and this is exactly why you feel the impact of every thud on the mat; every tear of the lead characters; and every joy that comes on their faces. That is why you subconsciously stand when the national anthem is played as a part of the movie. You feel that sense of pride rushing through your veins too.


This brings me to the third issue – that of acting and actors. 
First, when Aamir Khan is the principal protagonist in a movie, expect no other major name / superstar in it; preferably only the heroines have some reputation. That has been the trend. Otherwise, why will it be an “Aamir Khan movie” in the first place.  (PS- Perhaps "Three Idiots” is an aberration - if you want to call others stars.) 
But for once, there are actors in Dangal who match step-by-step with the Khan, Sakshi Tanwar as Aamir’s screen wife; Fatima Shaikh as Geeta; Zaira Wasim as the younger Geeta; Sanya Malhotra as Babita and Suhani Bhatnagar as the younger Babita are really good. Even the guy playing Geeta and Babita’s cousin is indeed a delight to watch.
I'm not going in the hardships that actors had to go through to prepare for the role. That is their job in the first place, especially, when they are in show-biz and a movie-script demands it. No extra points for being professional. 
In short, Dangal compliments the viewer’s interest in the movie with good actors and histrionics. 
However, I am not willing to call this Aamir Khan’s best. Perhaps, this was his best at playing the lead in any sort of “biopic” - which again is the flavor of Bollywood now. (Although, I believe Dangal to be a sports movie, rather than a biopic.)
But there is one line in the movie that will make you want to hear it again and again - "Examples are given. Not forgotten." 
Dangal, I believe will be an example, to the sport of wrestling - that has also given us Sakshi Mallik. May be it will also help prevent female foeticide. 
(Because there was someone like Mahavir Singh Phogat who preferred to take on society and ensured that his daughters are worth more than our fascination for sons.) 

Summing it up, I am willing to be liberal with my ratings on Dangal.

Rating – 4 / 5


  1. I didn't get the time to elaborate on the details that you dillogically pointed out. Almost similar thoughts but you bag the brownie points for the dedication you wrote it with. Rating though could have been half a point less :D

    1. Thanks a tonne for the feedback. Will definitely look forward to more such feedback from you.

  2. A great read...It is generally very boring to go through a long review but the fact that you have broken it into sub heads is making it easier to understand and go through. I think I want to see the movie. I trust your 4/5.

    1. Thank you. The most appreciable fact is that you have read such a long review despite not having watched the movie. :-)

  3. Besh bhalo - sahaj saral lekha so could connect easily! Good job Abhi-bhai!