Dangal’ becomes Aamir’s fifth film after ‘Ghajini’, ‘3 Idiots’, ‘Dhoom 3’ and ‘PK’ to enter the Rs 100-crore club.

Film Review: Dangal
Cast : Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra
Director : Nitesh Tiwari
Stars: 3.5/5
Music Director : Pritam
Genre : Biography
Running Time : 2 hours 41 minutes

Although Dangal’s box-office collection for Day One made it the second highest opener of the year, perhaps that only shows how low the bar for this year’s entertainment has been. Dangal, the latest Aamir Khan blockbuster, very much a Bollywood formula kind of thing, about a father-coach turning his obsession into winning a Gold for the country onto his daughters, making them into star wrestlers in a patriarchal rural India, is fabulous in the first half, but the post Intermission hour has me thinking that the film, like so many Bollywood films, is forty minutes too long.

Dangal is based on the true story of Mahavir Singh Phogat, an amateur wrestler who dreamed of bringing an athletic “gold” for his country. With life, society’s pressures, etc., he took a “normal” job and gave up Sports but the dream reawakens when he has children. Each time awaiting a son, his dreams are dashed with four girls. But when he realises his elder two, Geeta and Babita, are brawlers, he seizes the opportunity and turns them into competitive wrestlers. The film has important social messages about patriarchy, girl children, Haryana and how male dominated sports like wrestling are. Also shown very well are the government dominated sports federations and how much reform is truly needed. Dangal like most sports biopics, is inspiring and uplifting.

Aamir Khan, true to form, follows his method acting style to a T. From the 22 kilos he puts on for the latter half of the film, to the absolutely correct Haryanvi diction, he never fails to impress. The young Geeta and Babita are sparkling, played by Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar. The entire film is narrated by the girls cousin which puts a charming twist on the story. A fun cameo by Ritwik Sahore, sometimes tongue in cheek, sometimes emotional, is the young cousin of the girls, roped in of course, reluctantly, to become their human punching bag. The mother of the girls is a restrained performance by veteran television actor, Sakshi Tanwar. Debutantes Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra as the older Geeta and Babita may well be the best new discoveries of the year and although the plot is predictable, as in many sports biopics, the stunning cinematography, the very heart on sleeve story, the catchy songs, keeps you cheering the protagonists on till the very end. It is a film where the telling of the story does not become preachy, as it well could have. The writing is to be complimented, so kudos to Director Nitesh Tiwari, along with Piyush Gupta, Shreyas Jain and Nikhil Mehrotra.

The movie really benefits from the amount of time it gives to explaining wrestling strategy. It pays off in gripping sequences, although sometimes the music and dialogue cues are like they are spoon feeding us into responding a certain way. The acting is always superb, with actresses who really appear to be grappling, not just using body doubles. Dangal, like so many Bollywood films, has me wondering why are Indian films so long? Is it that the audiences are used to three hour long entertainment and that anything shorter is not paisa wasool? As a writer, I know the film could have been crisper and the fight sequences in the latter half be cut shorter. As a feminist, Aamir Khan droning and giving the social messages about girl children, etc., I squirmed. I just wondered (just as I did in Pink) whether these messages would not be as well received if the mother or some other strong female protagonist may have delivered them? But again, this is a true life biography, and perhaps this was how the story progressed.

Plus points of the film? The cinematography was superb. The scenes where the mud fights in at the akhaara show the dust dancing off the head of the young Geeta are stunning. The acting is stellar. Great story development based around the true life story of Mahavir Singh Phogat and his daughters. The music is catchy and has your feet tapping. And of course, Aamir Khan!

Negative points? It’s length.

Should you watch? For sure.