Cast: Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
There is some divine beauty in inspirational movies, isn’t it? Regardless of what you are going through life, it gives you hope and strength to grab your dreams. Cinema has become one of the best means of such motivation and Dangal is the latest inspirational example. Every Friday, films come and go and most of them hardly convey any message but then Aamir Khan comes once in a blue moon with a movie and makes up for all the cinematic joy we were longing for.
It’s highly important that whenever you are making a film on a real life great person, you should understand and do a thorough research on him/her so that you justify their greatness perfectly on screen. Nitesh Tiwari and Aamir Khan’s meticulous hard work can be seen in each scene and that’s why Dangal is a must watch film.
As evident from the trailer, Dangal is a story of Mahavir Singh Phogat and his two daughters, Geeta and Babita. Mahavir was a national level wrestling champion but couldn’t do much in the international arena due to the lack of facilities and opportunities. But, now he trains Geeta and Babita himself to make them world class wrestling champions.
Dangal’s script is comprehensive. It covers multiple phases of Phogat, Geeta and Babita’s lives. Not just inspirational bits but problems as well. Mahavir’s forced ambition upon his daughters in their childhood, the fun associated with it and then their uprising as the female wrestlers in Haryana is nicely written. Society’s views towards a girl wearing shorts and wrestling men are bravely displayed. But, Dangal goes beyond that. It shows that success is difficult to achieve but much more difficult to maintain. Geeta’s rise and then her distraction when she enters the international wrestling zone were rigorously penned down. I wanted to see more of Babita as well after she becomes the national level champion. She was mostly ignored afterwards. Another thing in the script that had me wondered is what happens to Mahavir Phogat during the final match. I don’t know whether it really happened or not but if not, then it was needlessly added in the script.
Well, it’s the direction that makes Dangal a strong film. Nitesh Tiwari impresses with his storytelling. Understand this, Dangal is not just about Mahavir Phogat but about his daughters and how he trained them so Nitesh does an excellent job in balancing out the scenes where we see Mahavir’s methods to train as well as the inspirational and brave journey of Geeta and Babita. The first half is fun with Geeta-Babita as kids getting hammered by their ‘Haanikaarak Bapu’ to prepare for wrestling. The song is hilariously picturized and film’s screenplay is spot on. The film flows interestingly with these girls trying to avoid this pain and then their eventual realization to wrestle. ‘Ab Dangal Hoga’ and we finally witness the fights.
The best thing about the film is the wrestling fights. They are spontaneous and you feel like you are actually watching them live. This is an epic achievement by Nitesh Tiwari. First fight of Geeta when she is a kid and fights with a guy is energetic and hard-core. You can understand the kind of efforts the team must have put in to make it so real. This is how you make a biopic which gives you the exact idea about the real life events. Zaira Wasim has done a commendable job with those fights. Her moves and ups and downs to win the points were impressive.
The second half of the film gets better when Geeta starts preparing for international matches. This is a different level of direction that shows how you can get carried away from your goals. The problems Geeta and Mahavir have during these moments are gripping. A bit tear-jerking final phase of the film but the fights make up for it. Even the Commonwealth Games fights give you goosebumps. Just look at the way those fight scenes are shot with Fatima (Geeta) fighting like a real wrestler. I mean, this is a statement from the director that they are pretty serious and honest in their efforts to show the greatness of these wrestling legends. My favorite scene is when Aamir fights with his daughter in the akhada. What a picturization and energy that scene has!
Image Source: UTV Motion Pictures
Nitesh captures the emotions of Mahavir (Aamir) perfectly. His younger version was necessarily brief and he didn’t try to show more of Aamir Khan’s wrestling but focuses on his daughters. This is a great piece of direction. Like I said, it’s monumental how he has shot those wrestling scenes which make them as real as you can get. The final scene when our national anthem is played, actually all the people from theatre stood up. Wow, look what a cinema can do.
Now, coming to some flaws from direction. Firstly, the Dangal title track was not impressively picturized by Tiwari. The song is an epitome of inspiration but in the film it doesn’t make much mark; it was availed at wrong scenes. Another thing is the conflict that I experienced. Throughout the movie, Nitesh showed the wrestling scenes like in a real time or spontaneous due to which they were effective. But, the final epic scene (which you will know when you see it) was shown in slow motion. I would have loved to see that one in real time as well. Instinctive shots create a brilliant rush. So, showing it in a slow motion actually made it theatrical but not realistic.
Also, the emotional scenes in the second half were a bit extra. They dragged the movie from the actual focus. It is highly unexpected from Aamir Khan’s film to have a melodrama so I think that should have been avoided. It actually gave the film a bit of typical aura for some time.
What makes Aamir Khan an amazing actor is, of course, he has great acting skills but more importantly, he always tries to outperform himself with each film and role. With Rang De Basanti, 3 Idiots, Ghajni or Lagaan, or even Sarfarosh, we think we know all the strengths of Aamir Khan but he always has something in store to surprise us with his acting magic. Dangal is a different role for Aamir. He is a lead in the film, but as a supporting role. Am I right? He needed to deliver the role of Mahavir, who trained his daughters for wrestling so it was his daughters who were the heroes in the film. As always, he is deep into the character and we can see the hardships Mahavir must have suffered to achieve such a gigantic dream. Initially you hate Aamir as he dictates his wrestling dream upon his daughters and that was the point. The fun and then his rigorous training were efficiently enacted.
Aamir’s real contribution is in the second half. This is where his different shades can be witnessed. The ever determined father ready to go any mile for his daughters, his pain when things go south and the emotional person in Mahavir who cares for his daughters and his country, this is Aamir at his finest. A father jumps in joy when his daughters win the match, he gets disappointed when they lose their focus and the satisfaction when they become the international champions are all inspiringly performed by Aamir Khan.
Zaira Wasim has to be appreciated in the role of Geeta Phogat (as a kid). She excels in delivering the character of an innocent girl child, forced to take up wrestling, her plans to avoid and run away from them and finally, the actual transition into the wrestler that her father wants her to become. It’s beyond words how she must have prepared for those fights which were no less than the actual fights. Even Suhani Bhatnagar is convincing.
Fatima Sana Shaikh had a big responsibility as she is the present reel Geeta Phogat. Just like Zaira, Fatima too, looked as real a wrestler as it can seem on screen. Potent fights, moves to outsmart the opponents are exactly that was demanded from her. Also, the moments when she lives a different life beyond her father’s teaching and that song ‘Gilehriyaan’ are magical. Sanya Malhotra as Babita Phogat was perfect as a supporting sister and always looking up to her father. She is really impressive but doesn’t get more screen time. Sakshi Tanwar is a strong actor. She gives a memorable first half performance as a wife and a mother who cares for every member of her family. She understands the pain of Mahavir as well as her daughters. Aparshakti Khurrana is a delight to have in this film. Surprisingly, he keeps the film entertaining with his ticklish punches. Girish Kulkarni is a top notch actor and he doesn’t disappoint as a cunning coach.
Dangal is a must watch film for the mind blowing efforts by director to show us the real wrestling fights and culture. The realism in characters, energy in wrestling and honesty in acting makes this movie a brilliant sporting journey. The film does stretch with its emotional excess in the end which should have been avoided. Nitesh Tiwari wins it through his inspiring storytelling. Aamir Khan’s sustained and powerful performance gives us one of the best films of 2016.