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'Dangal', a potent and palpable sports drama

Nikita Nathani
Nikita Nathani

A tea-dependent life form who loves learning unconventional ways of saying ordinary things

Jakarta  /  Wed, January 25, 2017  /  06:03 pm
'Dangal', a potent and palpable sports drama

If one were to describe Dangal in a word, it would be “potent”. (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/File)

If one were to describe Dangal in a word, it would be “potent”. In fact, that same word could be used to explain every facet of the movie — from its stellar cinematography and direction to the heartfelt performances of each of its characters. 

Based on true events, the film unwraps the story of Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir Khan), a former national champion wrestler and the father of four girls in the rural milieu of Belali. After having lost all hope of conceiving a son, he decides to transform his two eldest daughters, Geeta (Zaira Wasim, Fatima Sana Sheikh) and Babita (Suhani Bhatnagar, Sanya Malhotra) into wrestlers after seeing that they were capable of battering two village bullies. 

At this juncture, Phogat turns from a doting father into a hair-splitting wrestling coach to his two daughters. Disciplined and uptight, he is hell-bent on sustaining his dream of wrestling by preparing his young girls for the career he has selected for them. In doing so, he seems almost despotic, especially when he abruptly stops them from eating pani-puris (fried snacks), chops off their luscious hair and basically takes away their entire childhood. 

(Read also: 'Dangal' named highest grossing Bollywood movie of all time)

Nonetheless, all of his efforts make sense when the audience begins to experience an immense range of sentiments and thrills as they see the transition of Geeta and Babita from wide-eyed schoolgirls to fighters with unending determination, as well as observing the chauvinistic community put to shame when the girls soar to great heights. 

As the plot progresses from mud pits to padded mats, the arduous physical strains of the “real fight” are almost tangible, whether the sport is being played under murky field tents or in lavish sports arenas. A large chunk of the film portrays the complex wrestling strategies and techniques that Geeta and Babita have to learn as they climb up the pehlwani (wrestling) ladder and win copious gold medals. They performed with so much stamina that it is surprising they aren’t professionals in real life.  

The most significant part of the movie, however, has to be the father-daughter moments between Geeta and Mahavir, from the wrestling match between them that carried a more symbolic meaning and the quiet phone call, to the stimulating advice he gives her before she triumphs over her opponent at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Both Khan and Sheikh play out their roles in a way that seems like their personalities have been unified with their respective characters. Both of them are similar in terms of being domineering and vulnerable, albeit in their own different ways. 

In retrospect, Nitesh Tiwari’s Dangal is admirably unique and moving from beginning until end. It sets an example for everyone to never give up on passions and to work hard toward achieving them from the get-go until the end, all while drowning out the voices that try to bring them down. (nik/kes)



Nikita is a 21-year-old Mass Communication Major and a Linguistics Minor in the University of Melbourne. In her past time, she enjoys pressing flowers and cracking a multitude of puns.

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