Film Review: Dangal

Witness Aamir Khan as you’ve never seen him before

Posted: 21.12.16

We read so many motivational sporting stories in the news, which is a great feat for the heroes and heroines involved. But to have a movie made about you is to immortalise an epic story forever – and much deservingly in the case of Geeta and Babita, daughters of Mahavir Singh Phogat. Hailing from the state of Haryana, Mahavir was a wrestling champion of his time, but due to financial constraints and lack of support from his family, community and the government, his aspirations for an international gold medal remained a dream.

His burning desire for global gold and glory continued to fester, the flame of which he kept alight through his yearning for a son to further his legacy and honour his family, village and country. Alas, his dreams dwindled over the years, as he was blessed with four daughters and no sons. One day, destiny was finally on his side, when his two eldest daughters Geeta and Babita get into trouble at school after beating up two boys. And thus began Mahavir’s fulfilment of his lifelong quest, as he recognises that ‘dangal’, meaning wrestling, is in their blood. Despite challenges along the way, including negativity from the village communities, dominating male chauvinistic attitudes towards females and even motivating the teenage Geeta and Babita to feel the same passion for wrestling as their father, Mahavir never gives up on his dream of bringing glory to his nation on an international level. 

Dangal follows the trio’s journey over a span of ten years, chronicling the relentless and hardcore efforts of Mahavir, whilst personally nurturing, training and coaching his two daughters into homegrown, first class wrestling champions. The story’s narrative is spun and told by their cousin played brilliantly by Aparshakti Khurana, in a hugely entertaining and comical manner. His character is much loved throughout, as he becomes the butt of jokes, as well as Geeta and Babita’s unconventionally weaker male counterpart. Speaking of wit, the humour is a welcome undertone throughout the movie, which makes it all the more entertaining to watch, especially in-between extensive scenes of wrestling. 

Aamir Khan’s performance as Mahavir Singh Phogat is powerful, real and moving, where he mightily portrays Mahavir’s fierce passion. As always, Aamir Khan demonstrates his acting prowess and commitment as he transforms from the younger, robust, muscular Mahavir, to the older, overweight Mahavir, complete with uncle-jee pot belly. As well as his dramatic appearance, his portrayal as the stern, unrelenting, yet simple village man, evokes a rollercoaster of emotions, especially during poignant scenes of him and his daughters. 

Adolescent and grown up roles of Geeta were played beautifully by Fatima Sana Shaikh and Zaira Wasim, detailing not only the plight and efforts of an ordinary poor village girl to become an international wrestling champion, but also growing pains as a young girl and woman, as well as showing her bond with strict but loving father, Mahavir. Sanya Malhotra and Suhani Bhatnagar gave a credible performance as Geeta’s younger sister Babita, who is her fellow trainee wrestler, sharing the relationship and support of sisterhood and sportsmanship, in a world that initially has no faith in them. All four actresses demonstrate remarkable fitness and skill in the sport, which must have taken them months of preparation and effort. 

Although there are many patriotic films in Bollywood, Dangal successfully leaves its mark as a heartwarming, real and inspiring story, which proves to the world that you really can achieve anything you truly believe in and strive for, as well highlighting the important issue of the lack of funding for sports in lesser-developed nations. 

Dangal is out in cinemas worldwide on 23rd December 2016

Fariha Sabir


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