Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Cast: Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fathima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra
Since almost a decade, Aamir Khan has made a habit of delivering year-end blockbusters. Taare Zameen Par (2007), Ghajini (2008), 3 Idiots (2010), Dhoom 3 (2013)and PK (2014)- all were late December releases, which went on to become huge box-office hits. Most of these films and his TV chat show Satyamev Jayate garnered critical acclaim too, making this Khan a darling of classes as well as masses. Then came the rough patch. Few of his (and his wife’s) statements, taken out of context, resulted in a nasty social media backlash. The peeping, preening FB-Twitter-Whatsapp Toms-Dicks and Harrys (most of them not even having the guts of writing under their own names!) were (and still are!) out to get him, to put him down and to paint him as the villain.
The man stoically took this storm in his stride and kept working on a new project-Dangal. With 2016 almost over, we finally get to see it. Where does it rank amongst Aamir’s much-acclaimed repertoire? Is its wrestling-based story too similar to Salman’s Sultan? Let’s find out.
What’s it about?
Dangal (which means a wrestling competition) is a dramatized account of the true life-story of Mahaveer Singh Phogat and his family. For the want of financial and organizational support, Phogat, a national champion wrestler had to forgo his dreams of winning an international medal for India. Working as a clerk at a government office, he kept thinking of achieving that dream through his son. As luck would have it, he (despite dutifully trying every possible advice from village folk!) never got a son; having four daughters instead. One fine day, he decided that he would train his two eldest daughters- Geeta and Babita to become wrestlers. Fighting the traditional social norms at every step in the staunchly patriarchic state like Haryana, Phogat not only did train his daughters in the sport but successfully made them champions in the international arenas. Together, Geeta and Babita went on to win 29 international medals in wrestling.
· There is no denying that Dangal is Aamir Khan’s film first. Aamir, the socially conscious thinking man, is every bit apparent in the movie’s theme and the treatment and Aamir, the ‘go to any length’ method actor is the lifeline of the film.
· It is not just about putting on 22 kg weight to get Mahavir Singh’s old, paunchy look right; Aamir brings every shade of emotion in that character alive. A champion wrestler who refuses to let the sport go out of his system, a man desperate to live his dream through his children, a strict taskmaster who instils strong work ethic in his wards, a driven individual taking on the social norms and a sensitive father who doesn’t let his love for daughters come in the way of his tough training methods….Khan’s Mahavir Singh Phogat is his best screen portrayal till date.
· The daughters’ roles are equally praiseworthy. Fathima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra as older Geeta and Babita; and Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar as the younger ones deliver winsome performances.
· The rest of the supporting cast too pitches in with memorable portrayals.
· Director Nitesh Tiwari (who also is the co-writer) is brilliant in his narrative, which grips you right from the first scene and doesn’t loosen its grip despite a near 3 hours length. Tiwari tells the story with a rare sensitivity but still manages to keep it light-hearted and action-packed. He beautifully etches out the characters and relationships; especially the tough, tumultuous father-daughter bond between Mahavir and Geeta is tenderly captured. The way Tiwari manages to portray the tough social environment in which Phogat raised his daughters to be champions also deserves a special mention.
· Wrestling bouts in the film are edge-of-the-seat stuff.
· The songs provide the perfect backdrop.
· The main grouse I had was that the second half of the film ended up focusing much more on Geeta Phogat’s journey and somehow sidelining Babita’s equally important achievement.
· The minor objection would be for the rather melodramatic finale.
Dangal succeeds on almost every cinematic level. It is an exceptionally well-written, directed and acted film. It is an inspiring biopic of a family that sacrificed so much in pursuit of a seemingly far-fetched dream. It is a thrilling sports film which presents wrestling in its full glory. It is a touching human drama with heart-tugging and hilarious moments galore. Most importantly, it is a powerful social commentary about the age-old patriarchic prejudices, which are still prevalent in most of the spheres in our country. It delivers its message is loud and clear- “It just takes one driven individual to challenge and change the system’!
It shows that you don't need flashy sets, foreign locales and frothy sex-violence-filed stories to succeed at the box-office. It also proves that sensitive, sensible cinema need not be a snoozefest; it can still be hugely entertaining.
Aamir Khan and team take a bow! You have raised the bar again for Bollywood's mainstream cinema. Dangal is not just an unmissable film; it is an all-time classic which will be remembered for years.