Film Review: Dangal

Think wrestling, and the late Dara Singh comes willy-nilly to mind. Aamir Khan was born in the year India’s most famous wrestler made the eponymous Rustom-e-Hind (1965), a title he was bestowed with 11 years earlier. No wonder then that the punctilious and given-to-precise-details actor was fated to make, and star in, a film on wrestling

Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir) yearns for a male child so that he can transform his aborted dream of being an international level wrestler. After his wife Daya Kaur (Sakshi Tanwar) delivers a fourth girl child, the crestfallen Mahavir abandons all hope, that is, till one day, his two elder daughters Geeta (Zaira Wasim) and Babita (Suhani Bhatnagar) thrash a couple of boys for passing inappropriate comments. That’s when he realizes that ‘Mhaari chhoriyaan chhoron se kam nahi’ and a gold medal is a gold medal, be it a male wrestler or a female. Putting the girls under a rigorous regimen he trains them till the now grown-up Geeta (Fatima Sana Sheikh) and Babita (Sanya Malhotra) are ready to take on the world’s best at the New Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Dangal (wrestling pit) is the heroic tale of Mahavir Phogat who defied the system, surmounted all odds and prevailed over his conservative wife to nurture his two daughters to the pinnacle of glory. Aided by spot-on casting, it’s a superbly scripted film with masterly performances from the lead actors as also from the young Ritwik Sahore (‘Kayo’ of Ferrari Ki Sawaari) and Aparshakti Khurana (grown-up) who play Aamir Khan’s nephew. Girish Kulkarni as the National coach who annuls Fatima’s father’s tactics and techniques, but steps forward to hog the credit when his ward excels, shines. Vivan Bhathena appears in a cameo towards the end. It is easily Aamir Khan’s best performance in a long time. And whether it is the feisty Fatima revelling in her newfound freedom at the National Sports Academy or Daya Kaur restraining her husband from feeding their children non-vegetarian food, director Nitish Tiwari extracts consummate portrayals from his entire cast.

Despite a few cinematic liberties towards the end, the film is, at heart all about woman emPOWERment. The background music manages to keep convenient pace with the on-screen action. After SRK in Dear Zindagi, one more Khan has ‘matured’ — reportedly putting on 25kg for the role of the flabby 55 –year-old and then losing 22 kg to essay the young Mahavir. When will the third Khan mature?

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