Movie Review: Dazzling ‘Dangal’ is contrarian to ‘3 Idiots’ messages on parenting

Dangal gives a solid dhobi pachaad (rural India wrestling knock out move) and bloodied nose message to a 1.3 billion populated patriarchal society, that refuses to acknowledge the existence of girls. It’s 161 minutes of stellar performances, breathtaking wrestling scenes, pains taken to explain the game’s nuances to the average viewer (its shown as detailed as the war strategy was explained in Baahubali), six sigma authenticity in capturing native Haryana (so good that it doesn’t stress you on understanding Haryanvi dialect), taking audience through smiles, emotions and trough swelling pride. Alongside Paan Singh Tomar, Dangal would be Bollywood’s best made sports biography. While Mary Kom and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag have more fascinating, against the odds stories, Dangal is a superior product thanks to the depth of authenticity, performances and surely should be made tax free.

The real life Phogat sisters


Phogats are India’s number one sporting family

The Nitesh Tiwari directed flick is story of ace wrestling coach, Mahavir Singh Phogat, his protégés – daughters Babita & Geeta and niece Vinesh – each of whom have taken India to international medal podiums and little known Bhiwani district, Haryana to world’s sporting map. To be specific, Balali village in Bhiwani district.

The Phogats are probably India’s number one sports family now considering the other active father and son sporting families (Binny, Srikanth, Paes, Krishnan, Milkha Singh) have their sons either retired, verge of retiring, or not achieved international greatness at the levels the Phogats did.

The Phogats are easily India’s number one sporting family now

Obsessive parenting or let them be themselves 

Dangal does have its share of flaws – it seems 15mins too long; the second half is overdramatic on the topic of ‘loss of focus’; the conflicts over technique seem unrealistic, Sakshi Tanwar is wasted despite her extremely expressive eyes; and excellent actor Girish Kulkarni (the cop in Ugly) reduced to a villainish, caricature national coach. However all that is made up with genuineness and audacious moments – Aamir’s extreme focus in his dream, the lovable nephew used as punching bag, the girls revolting on training methodologies, the excruciating semi-final bout which keeps you on edge of your seat, avoiding the filmy stereotypes and ensuring Aamir makes no grand entry during the finals and more.

However, where Dangal bats successfully is for the biggest societal flaw – obsessive parenting – and which is completely opposite message to what one of Aamir’s best movies ‘3 idiots‘ delivered. A father getting his young daughters hair chopped, running across fields early morning, wrestling in the mud with boys is pleasing for eyes; even humour; you want the girls to do well and succeed too. But would you subject your own girl through such obsession?

Contrarian styles of parenting 

I have been brought up in steel city Jamshedpur where every parent thought/thinks becoming an Engineer or Doctor is minimal survival criteria. Each kid is subjected to this limited career choice and pressurized no end at single-digit age, to mug up hundreds of pages which they won’t ever need to apply in real life. Many real-life superstars (sports, corporate) have grown up thanks to this obsessive parenting push. Undoubtedly, the ones who didn’t make to stardom still got an above average life than what may have transpired (myself included) without the parental push.

Sitting next to me at Dangal theatre were a pair of parents (Smitha and Santosh Kalyanaraman) who have let their ten-year-old daughter (Sahana Iyer) follow her instincts and take up sports as means to excel and extract confidence. They even take her to watch Indian Hockey girls national team excelling in international competitions. That’s a sign of a child growing on her own terms and parents investing time and energy in trying to find the exact talent nerve in her. That’s the ‘3 idiots‘ model we try to achieve for our girl Arushi Das too, but the line is so thin that often it can be misconstrued as ignorant or unambiguous parenting.

Mindset is the biggest villain 

Both styles are debatable, the Dangal mode more so. Would you turn your life (and your kid’s) into a Dangal or let souls Live Life? Debatable and indigestible too for some. In rural Haryana, till date, there are villages where when a girl child is born, she is crushed under the leg of a cot. India’s male dominated chauvinistic society can’t digest or appreciate most parts of Dangal and hence the box office collection will be a good benchmark of how deep the message is reaching the masses.

As a fifteen year old girl on her marriage altar (to an unknown middle-aged man) says to our protagonists. ‘You girls are lucky your father thinks about you, most like mine, just treat daughters as objects from the day we are born, to be disposed of at the earliest’.

Rating: 4.5/5 (Averaged with friends)

Box Office Prediction: Dangal rounds off a highly women-centric Bollywood 2016 as well as a wrestling-centric year. Dangal is a superior product than Sultan although lower on star value or filmy styles. That movie talks more about making champions out of girls than discussing ‘Baby ko bass pasand hai’, will see it clocking ~400 crores than Sultan-esque 600 crores.

Thank you Aamir Khan.

Thank you Phogat parivaar.

Thank you Sakshi Malik.

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