A gripping watch

The mere rustic nature of people in our country called India show how much respect is incorporated in our land, our motherland. The rural India also has so many interesting stories to offer. Sometimes these stories remind us of some one’s achievements and accomplishments long forgotten or buried in the coffin of passing time.

The life of wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat is an excellent instance in this regard. Born in Balali village of the Bhiwani district of Haryana, Mahavir Singh Phogat was an Indian amateur wrestler and now a senior Olympic coach. Nitesh Tiwari and his team have done a remarkable job in portraying his life on the silver screen.

‘Dangal’ is about getting acquainted to such forgotten heroes who have done so much for our country and their love for the country in no way fails to amaze us. Such is this story which baffles us, amuses us, intrigues us, fascinates us and surprises us.

“Maa ke pet se marghat tak hai teri kahani pag pag pyaare”

Above is the first line of Dangal’s title track which evokes such powerful emotions that we feel a rush after immediately listening to the song and the song speaks volumes about the journey covered by this exemplary man who is an epitome of inspiration in the field of wrestling.

The narrative of the film revolves around Mahavirji’s tenacity to train her two elder daughters Geeta Kumari Phogat and Babita Kumari Phogat. These two girls are personifications of perseverance and show that iron will is what one person needs to reach the zenith of success.  Aamir Khan plays the role of Mahavir Singh Phogat with Sakshi Tanwar playing his wife Daya Kaur. Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar play the younger versions of Geeta and Babita whereas Fatima Sana Saikh and Sanya Malhotra portray Geeta and Babita Kumari.

The very opening sequence of Dangal shows us Aamir Khan as a government employee eagerly waiting for an Olympic Wrestling match to start in a monotonous government office lost in the sound of typewriters and amidst the dust of closed files not opened for years. The scene continues into a very gripping moment when Mahavir i.e Aamir Khan engages in a conversation with one of his colleagues regarding India’s chances in the Olympics. Listening to Mahavir’s constant criticism regarding the wrestling scene in the country the young man thinks Mahavir to be just another pigmy trying to boast his knowledge about wrestling and challenges him for a round.

Thereafter follows the inevitable: with utmost ease Mahavir shows that man what a real champion is made of, and after three attempts the young man, who turns out to be a state level wrestler, fails to even prove his point and show his mettle.

In this little village of Haryana began a story which went to become a tale meant to be shouted out to progeny as an epitome of inspiration. Breaking the inhibitions of the very shackles of society’s prejudices, Mahavir Singh Phogat rose above everybody to do something that was highly unlikely for an ordinary village inhabitant. He was clouded by the want of a son who according to him would fulfil his dream of earning a gold medal for the country in wrestling. But his destiny did not sway according to his own will. He was blessed with four daughters but not a single son, which saw his dream fading away gradually. This was his moment of anagnorisis when he realised the fact that “gold to gold hota hai, wo chhora laye ya chhori”.

His instinct told him that his daughters were destined to be wrestlers because they were carrying the blood of a wrestler. It was with a heavy heart that his wife Daya agreed to the decision but Mahavir promised her that if he was proved wrong then he would live the rest of his life with this burden on his heart. He worked day and night to train Geeta and Babita, who were naturally unhappy with their father’s decision to transform them into wrestlers.

The orthodox Hindu society’s conventions spoke ill of Mahavir and their family was an element of ridicule for the entire village. He faced inhibitions in every step but managed to cross those hurdles and stand firm against them. Even the village akhara refused to allow him to train his daughters with men and boys, a social taboo. But he did not give way to these superficial roadblocks and went on to create an akhara in the middle of an agriculturally prosperous field. But their daughters were absolutely disgusted and cynical in their attitude regarding their father and considered him the biggest villain of their life.

The film portrays social evils subtly. In a particular sequence, Geeta and Babita attend the marriage of one of their friends without telling their father. But their father gets to know and gives them a thrashing in the middle of a ceremony and leaves without saying a word. The scene cuts to the two sisters sitting with their friend and expressing their grief and ire regarding their treatment. But the girl who gets married speaks out a very heart wrenching truth about society; a girl child is mostly unwelcome in a family and the first thing to do with them is to marry them off so that they don’t remain a burden anymore. But a father like Mahavir is what a girls dreams of who wants to make them into something which will leave their imprints on the world. This particular scene gives a booster to the pace of the film and acts as catalyst to the rest of the plot.

Subsequently, we see the teamwork of two girls and a father who tackles this shallow society despite facing orthodox prejudices. Their first step as evolution into wrestlers is shown in a matter of time which also depicts the fact that the struggle is always of more significance. The first fight of Geeta’s fighting career is so powerful that it seems real enough to take us into that ‘dangal’. The film focuses mainly on Geeta’s journey.

The climax comes with Geeta’s turn to leave his father’s aegis and go to the national sports academy for furthering her dream of representing her country. But she does get carried away with everything new around her – her freedom, her coach, her friends and the environment.

But the falling action comes in the form of a tussle between Geeta and her father regarding how wrestling techniques have evolved through time, resulting in a bout between them. Aamir Khan’s performance in that particular sequence was something that can bring tears into the eyes of even an insensitive soul. But that moment resembled a bag of mixed emotions that I was going through, of anger at Geeta’s misbehavior toward her father, her lack of showing gratitude for whatever her father taught her, and also awed by how Geeta transformed herself in managing to even surpass her father – that is probably the dream of every teacher – but not in this cruel way.

Thereafter the conflict comes which is essential in a narrative and this conflict drove the plot forward. Revealing the denouement would spoil the entire experience but the way the story goes forward from this point creates magic. Starting from Geeta apologizing to Mahavir for her arrogance and overconfidence to Mahavir’s concern for his daughter and leaving no stones unturned to deliver success to Geeta’s plate.

Dangal, all in all, was emotionally gripping, motivating but at the same time I would not restrain myself from saying that the typical Bollywood masala element did not go missing.


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