Dangal is a film that is relevant at a time when female athletes are breaking the glass ceilings with their exceptional performances and is needed, because as a nation, India is in a state of inertia in terms of encouraging women in sports. Dangal, is about a man with a dream, who believed daughters can carry on the lineage and achieve. Starting off as a typical Indian male in an orthodox society where women’s role is limited to “ghooghats” and child rearing, Mahavir (Aamir Khan), years for a son, so that he could achieve his dream of winning a gold medal for the nation. The movie begins with a montage of strong, well-built men, fighting on the tilled soil of Haryana with Mahavir motivating them. His wife (Sakshi Tanwar) becomes, pregnant and he hopes for a son, but fate gives him a daughter.
That is what we could make out from his disappointed expression. Lack of sensitivity and education among the folks have prompted both Mahavir and his wife to adopt religious and unconventional ways to conceive a male child, in a satirical manner. But, in all four instances his wife produces daughters and the neighbors, who were ready with sweets, simply closes the box. A society that doesn’t treat women as people, don’t celebrate the birth of a girl. Mahavir becomes visibly disappointed and buries his dreams in despair until one day, his elder daughters Geeta and Babita beats the shit out of two boys who misbehave with them. That’s when he realizes the fact; gold remains gold, whether it is a boy who brings or a girl. The rest of the plot deals with Mahavir training his daughters into wrestlers and how Geeta breaks shackles of social stereotypes to put women on the map through a male dominated sport.
Since the film thoroughly focusses on Mahavir Phogat and his dreams, the film cannot be called as a feminist flick. He forces his dreams on his daughters and robs them off their childhood. He sees feminity, from long hair to makeup products, as a distraction for girls. Personally, I found Geeta’s fights with the male wrestler, as shown, a process of her fighting like a man. When a woman fights or behaves like a man then her role as a woman is disregarded. Bollywood has highlighted this scenario over the years like a curse, from naming a woman-centric film “Mardaani” to using feminity in contexts of insult. Plus certain situations are simply brushed aside. During Geeta’s first wrestling competition, she was allowed to participate as the organizers hoped that she will draw in more audience and they could use the money to train their “boys”. The irony there itself. When Geeta goes into the arena, fully dressed unlike her male counterpart, two boys speaks in an orgasmic manner, saying that they look forward to her clothes being torn. Two 25+ (maybe 30) men literally sexualised a 14-year-old girl’s body and that part was simply ignored. Mindsets of a pervert are simply brushed aside as “boys will be boys”? I just wished there was a scene where someone corrected them.
Besides this, the feminist context stands out. Geeta and Babita are reminded by a close friend of theirs, who is being married off at the age of 14, saying that they have the privilege of being born to a father to treats them like a child instead of a burden. Above all, they have a future. It is a sad and painful reality, it is a reality in itself. Pinnacle is that this trivia is revealed as opposed to a man’s role of reminding girl’s place. Geeta and Babita realize that this social mindset is prevalent and that their roles as wrestlers mean a lot in terms of breaking the shackles and the unfortunate situation of their roles as women who prove their worthiness because Haryana is notorious for female foeticide and honour killing. After Geeta and Babita’s success, we see a lot of young girls in Mahavir’s wrestling arena, learning and wanting to be like their role models. Before the final wrestling competition, a young handing a packet of Haryana’s soil to Mahavir and the subsequent motivational words by Mahavir will give you goosebumps. For Geeta, it is not just competition but a quest, where she has to set herself as an example. Her voice against patriarchy and male domination, and against those who underestimate and subjugate girls. Geeta’s victory spoke a thousand words and the fire ignited by Mahavir spread across India.
Nitesh Tiwari’s direction and vision are on point. The wrestling scenes are well choreographed and Fatima Sana Shaikh gave her 100% and actually fought in those scenes. Aamir Khan is stupendous and he delivered the accent and physical performance with ease. We get to feel his emotions and pressures. As an actor, he should have won the national award for this film. Zaira Wasim delivered an adorable portrayal and received the national award for the same. Both Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra delivered their best, hopefully, they get to do subjective roles in the coming years.
Dangal is a must watch film for the mass audience. It is an inspiring tale and the final national anthem scene will ignite a sense of patriotism.
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