I saw Dangal late. Very late. By the time I had booked my tickets, the movie had surpassed PK to become the highest grossing Bollywood movie of all time. I wasn’t surprised at its success but was taken aback by the absolute lack of sleazy item numbers in the promotion efforts of the movie. No cleavage, no indecent lyrics, only the promise of a story where women overcame all odds along with their father to succeed in an arena where no one expected them to. Weird.
I felt normal again when there was a Raftaar song part of the promos but was terribly disappointed once again due to the absence of sports cars, alcohol and naked women. Serious lapse from the marketing team in my opinion. I was buzzing as I booked the afternoon show via PayTM and used a promo code to waive off the internet booking charges (MBA bruh!).
Despite being almost a month since its release, and a fortnight since Swami Om sprayed urine on fellow inmates in the Bigg Boss house, the theatre was largely occupied for an afternoon show. My friends and I are now probably on the Government’s “Extremely Dangerous Anti-Nationals” list not because we missed the pre-screening National Anthem but because we weren’t present to see the Vicco Vajradanti ad. We were operating on each other’s kidney to pay for popcorn and cold drinks.
The movie began with National Champion Aamir flaunting his controversial Super Sayian physique and defeating a State Champion wrestler in the office which I believe is a fantastic allegory for CBSE and State board students. It shows him become an absolute failure in the eyes of the average everyday Indian as he wears a helmet while riding a two wheeler. He also failed to “produce” a son. The YouTube comment section that is Indian society roasts him everyday as his wife constantly raises his Dowry expense per lifetime.
Mahavir Phogat now played by a post mid-life crisis Aamir, loses all hope and abandons his dream to get into IIT through his son. But luckily for him, his daughters smash the patriarchy and a couple of rude boys on their way to school, which reminds Aamir that even a girl’s childhood and adolescence can be destroyed to make sure she gets into IIT! That was all that was required for Mahavir to start his own coaching class for the girls who had to lose their sleep, any chance of dating or interacting with sunlight for the foreseeable future.
They get the champu haircut and stop paying attention in school only to give their 110% in coaching. Textbook preparation! They try to rebel but see how much their father cares for them when they see their friend being made to study Commerce (get married). They work hard and compete with the boys only to emerge victorious in every mock exam. Emboldened by success and hardened by their training, the girls grow up and Gita tops her state and even national mocks!
She joins a full time coaching program away from her family where a new coach teaches her shortcuts and techniques to crack the JEE. She even starts dealing with male attention and indulges in movie marathons with her new mates. Her father naturally grows insecure as he realises his daughter is obviously not suffering enough in life. Hence, the next time she visits home, her father challenges her to a bout.
So this scene was the one which convinced me to write this article and I won’t make fun of it. The sheer intensity, sincerity and tension of the fight between Mahavir and his eldest daughter will give anyone goosebumps. Beautifully shot, it shows a very real struggle between Gita and her father, of the old guard v.s. the new and of freedom v.s. control. It is something we all have indulged in with our parents which makes the scene even better. Just for this scene, go watch the movie.
Anyway, Gita returns to her coaching centre after humiliating her dad but not before Babita reminds her of the REAL reason behind her mock exam success – child abuse and absence of gol-gappas. Gita ignores her and when Babita joins the same class as a junior, she tries to induct her into the ‘new way’. Babita sticks to her guns and tops her mocks while Gita doesn’t really do well in hers. After a lot of failure and contemplation the girls decide the ‘Haanikarak Baapu’ way was the only way.
They ditch calculators and adopt vedic maths, get the champu haircut back on for good measure and even bunk lectures at coaching! When the day of reckoning finally arrives at the scam hit centre of the JEE, Gita doesn’t follow any of her coach’s instructions but reverts back to her dad’s old ways to find success. As the results start pouring in, Mahavir is unable to check them due to him being a Vodafone customer thereby rendering his 3G services worse than 2G. But Jio comes to the rescue and Mahavir finally learns of the news that his daughter got into IIT!
Again on a serious note, when the national anthem tune was played in the theatre, my friends and I saw first-hand, the fear of falling foul of the mob in India as everyone stood up even when it wasn’t mandatory. Scary and funny at the same time, it made me uncomfortable as half the audience stood up after watching the first half stand for no reason.
The movie is amazing not just because it had a brilliant story, but also because the performances were great. The girls who played Gita-Babita as kids were stellar! Special shout-out to the character of Omkara who was ever dependable and hilarious. Also, Sakshi Tanwar is the most convincing Indian wife ever. Always nails her roles.
What struck me the most was the authenticity and quality of wrestling on show. Usually in sports movies there’s rarely the same impact as watching the real event. But in this case, every fight seemed like an actual live performance. Kudos to Aamir Khan for another blockbuster and shame on the rest of Bollywood for not attempting to be even 1% as serious as he is in terms of creating quality content.
Watch this movie before it goes out of theatres. Not justified on a smaller screen. Watch this movie not because it is an ode to wrestling. Watch it because it is a tribute to the tiger parents we were all raised by.