Dangal - Review

wogma rating: Pride of your DVD shelf (?)
quick review:

Kudos to writing that got me hooked to wrestling for the last hour or so. This for a person who gets easily bored in wrestling films, let alone the sport itself.

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Just the number of social topics that Dangal touches upon could've worked against the film. Many a film that has tried this, has suffered from spreading itself too thin for its own good. But Dangal builds one theme on another relentlessly. It even lets some of them run in parallel - all without losing sight of any single one – at the same time it creates and retains my interest in a sport, the existence of which is otherwise incomprehensible to me.

This is not to say that it is not as predictable as any underdog story. That it is. In fact, you know how the last fight will end, and when the national anthem plays at the beginning you get an inkling of exactly how the audience is expected to react to that last fight. The beauty is that I didn't mind it. I didn't mind the precious run-time spent on the usual rigorous training montages that go with this genre. I didn't mind the usual “success goes to underdog's head” phase. I didn't mind the occasional slack in pace. I didn't mind sitting through almost an hour of only and only – wrestling matches. This is so because at any given point there are lots of things at play and they all weave together seamlessly.

In fact, all my apprehensions - about an Aamir Khan film becoming more about Aamir Khan than the subject matter that he has taken to heart - melted with the first two scenes. The humor took me in. Sure, the laughs don't stay long. They dissipate along with Mahavir Singh Phogat's (Aamir Khan) hopes of having a son. But, stronger themes like passion, woman empowerment, angst against system, take hold – none of which are new, but all are sewed together into a story that make you root for its protagonist.

The protagonist here is not Mahavir Singh Phogat, it is his daughter – Geeta Kumari Phogat (Zaira Wasim followed by Fatima Sana Shaikh). You empathise with her when her dad's aspirations are forced on her, you sympathise with her when she tries to wing out of her father's shadow. For a lot of the journey, even though Mahavir Phogat is in the scene, your focus is on her.

It is a pleasant surprise to see Aamir Khan let the other characters take center stage - even if it is a side character like Mahavir's wife or his nephew – while he maintains his own screen presence.. The actor himself does well from being athletic to pot-bellied. It is almost as if he shot the younger-Mahavir scenes while he was shooting for Dhoom 3. Physique aside, we completely register Mahavir's frustration, anger, joy, conceit, hurt ego, pride. Some parts even convince you that the actor might be this tyrannical in real life too.

The rest of the cast – including Fatima Sana Shaikh – are all so refreshing. From Sakshi Tanwar to Girish Kulkarni to Sanya Malhotra to Aparshakti Khurrana (Thank you, @Minu Nair for the name!) - they all fit in perfectly. It is exhilirating that off late, across films, actors are getting better and better at their jobs, even if the other departments of the film fail them. Fortunately, that's not true of Dangal.

From the diet consultants to prosthetics (maybe?), from the dialect tutors to the writing department, from the fight choreographers to the music and lyrics, and a lot in between – all work in sync and towards one goal, that of making a good, focused film. Sure, the music might not have repeat listening value, but it works beautifully within the context of the film.

Above all, it is held together by the writing department. At its root, Dangal is a sports story that spends a lot of time on the back-story. But equally strong is its theme of enabling women. While some of the “tips” to have a boy might amuse us as city-dwellers, I have been told some even more ridiculous tricks to make sure I have a son. It is difficult to shrug it away as funny when I know people who haven't been able to get away with having “just” daughters.

It adds on the philosophy of “perspective” through the plight of a young 14-year old girl who's being married off. While still on the issue of exasperating, gender-related bias, the movie manages to comment on how something that makes business sense goes through despite societal outrage against wrestling girls. It is almost amusing that the movie turns a house of woman objectification into a study room to empower a woman.

Closer to home, a parenting struggle that I go through day in and day out is brought to the fore. To push a child beyond her breaking point so that she achieves what I see as her potential or to let her be and blossom the way her personality drives her? What takes priority – my son losing his childhood to achieve greatness or him taking his time to figure out if he wants anything extra-ordinary for himself?

As their characters build in the story, you wonder whether the clash is between father and daughter as personalities or whether it is that between a usual, teenage know-it-all and an obstinate, aging old man. While Mahavir claims that he passed on his wrestling genes to his daughters, is he aware that he passed on his egoistic genes too. He might be passionate about the sport and acing the sport for his country. But is she? For her it might just be about proving her father wrong – or right.

Dangal hits such a sweet blow on the situation of sports in the country. While it seems like it is a contest between national-coach and father-coach, it is actually a comment on how inadequate the coach appointed by the ministry truly is.

Sure, some of these story elements might have been dramatised to arouse these particular emotions. Fortunately, the drama is kept at its minimal. I'll leave the thought, “Why do filmmakers think even that much drama is necessary?” to another day.

As if this weren't enough, one tiny directorial decision wins the movie for me. In the moment when an underdog needs inspiration, he/she sees a montage of flashbacks and hears quotable quotes that he/she has heard recently in the film. These quotes in hindsight seem like they were placed to inspire at precisely that right moment. No, of course not, Dangal doesn't skip this moment. But, the montage of flashbacks it uses are things, we as an audience, haven't seen earlier. Not all of them are those that were shown to us, just a few minutes ago. They are things that happened years ago in the characters life, that we weren't made privy to. This is so rare in films (not just Hindi films), that I can't resist this extra 150-word paragraph. Yes, it is not remotely enough to make a film “great”, but it makes me “love” a film from “liking it a lot”.

Beyond this, Dangal made me look forward to the next wrestling match, even if it were in a film. It doesn't go all technical on me, but I get the rules and my heartbeats fluctuate with Geeta's wins and losses. It is amusing, if not a shame that a cricket analogy had to be used to make a point. But, it brings home the point that whether or not the characters are able to pronounce the word, any sport is made lovable for its “strategy” more than the strength required to win – a strategy that willingly goes for a hand-to-hand battle with bad luck.

I am so glad that my skepticism of Aamir Khan films has been proven wrong. Whether or not I agree with Mahavir's parenting, I will watch this one again with my kids - soon.

- meeta, a part of the audience

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: If the sport seems violent too, then yes.
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None.
  • Concept: Underdog film.
  • General Look and Feel: A slick sports film.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

  • Direction: 4.5
  • Story: 4.5
  • Lead Actors: 5
  • Character Artists: 5
  • Dialogues: 4
  • Screenplay: 4
  • Music Director: 3.5
  • Lyrics: 4

Dangal - Movie Details

Dangal - Trailer

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Comments (26)

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Anup:

After watching DANGAL , i felt like SULTAN had shown nothing about Wrestling .
such brilliant fight scenes , so many jokes as well as emotional moments you just get hooked to the movie..
Its such a delight to know that two of the best movies of 2016 (PINK & DANGAL) are women centric..

Minu:

Aamir's nephew in the movie is Aparshakti Khurrana (Ayushmann Khurrana's younger brother)

Kavya Kapoor:

Excellent story line and acting. This is gonna best movie of 2016.

Anuj:

Outstanding sports drama, perhaps the best in this genre by Bollywood. Leaves the likes of CDI, Sultan, MSD, BMB far far behind. Tight screenplay, solid performances and a style of film making that would find favor among every section of the audience, right from the Delhi's to the Dhanbad's and the Bangalore's to the Bikaner's of the country. This movie proves that you need no "Baby ko Bass's & Munni Badnaam's" to please the masses. All you need is solid content coupled with solid star power (unfortunate truth of our audience). DANGAL is a masterpiece, Aamir's best since LAGAAN (3I, RDB, TZP not withstanding)

Anuj:

My favorite films of 2016 :

1. Dangal
2. Airlift
3. Neerja
4. Pink
5. Kapoor & Sons
6. Shivaay
7. MSD-The untold story
8. Sultan
9. Wazir
10. Kahaani 2

Anuj:

Requesting regular WOGMA users FAN & ANUP to pick their top 10 of 2016.

Anup:

My favorite films of 2016 -
1.PINK
2.DANGAL
3.KAPOOR and SONS
4.UDTA PUNJAB
5.NEERJA
6.AE DIL HEI MUSKIL
7.MSD
8.SULTAN
9.RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0
10.SHIVAAY
P S - havnt seen yet - PARCHED , FORCE 2 , KAHAANI 2 and AKIRA..

Sonia:

It is the best biopic ever made in Bollywood till now. Dhoni was a good watch but this movie surpasses everyone.

Anuj:

Mention of films like Udta Punjab, ADHM, RR 2.0 and no mention of one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful movies of 2016 Airlift! Wow.. :P

Raj D.:

I am aware that many people would not like to read my review.

I have no doubt that the movie viewing experience with its emotional pot-boiler roller coaster ride engages and is a good one, better than the Indian, regional and vernacular soap-opera dished out on Indian television. (That is why I am giving 7 out of 10 rating)

But if a sensitive person looks beyond the cosmetics of movie dazzles – you will find someone is selling a regressive message through this film. Kodus to Dangal team for achieving such a feat. Here is my take..

When the first poster of the movie was released I did not like it. Even though being a wrestler, why four girls should look like boys was the first question I raised.

Now after reading so much appreciation and reviews of the movie I say this:

• This is another patriarchal portrayal of regressive India • A father forces his dreams on children. One should never do • Children should be kept free to develop and grow as they want • This is again patriarchy dominance on the feminine gender and forcing it with the power of parenting to subjugate the flourishing of women's gender. • For sure the flourishing of women's gender is not in imitating men and/or boys and becoming fighters, wrestlers and looking masculine. This is degrading the pride, dignity and respect of being a woman • To use a true success story of a single case and successfully use it as propaganda for women's emancipation is sickening to say the least. The negative fallout of this movie could be: • Irrespective of boys or girls many parents will force their children (and more so to girls) to do what they failed to achieve in life. Make their children do things that they as parents have dreamed. Sick mentality! • Many girls may start behaving like boys - wearing boys dress, cutting hair like boys, fighting like boys etc. etc. not at all in the spirit of humanism • Father in the movie saying that "My girls are no less than boys". Such comparisons are not needed in today's evolved society. This is a phrase of sixties India. It is similar to always call a girl "Tom Boy" and demean and insult her sexuality. Such comparisons just distort the femininity of girls and women, who mis-understand such statements as being treated like boys rather than girls • Addressing girls as a male gender and treating one like that - the society like India - parents may do that to destroy the little bit of remaining self-esteem that girls and women - have on their given gender and sexuality • I also am bothered - as I always tell everyone about it is MAN - in capitals that drive the so called women's emancipation and empowerment agenda - It is so disturbing to see this. The four writers of the movie are men, the director of the movie is wearing men's glasses, the so called super-star gender sensitive actor Amir Khan is too wearing a man's hat. • In propaganda of spreading regressive message through this film the team too is of men - the director, writer, producer and lead actor - all men - who drive to influence the society in a way that may create a distorted image of what is meant by women empowerment. • In real life on which the movie is based the father of the wrestling girls drives their lives. Such case studies should have been presented more sensitively by showing – such things need not be done – even though in the end it brings laurels for the country.

Though I agree the medium of cinema when used with shrewdness can garner enough emotions of within ignorant humans about nationhood to back the protagonist in whatever s/he is doing.

That is what has happened in this movie - the art of good film-making - tends to overlook and ignore finer aspects of women empowerment and digs more deep into the patriarchal systems to further strengthen patriarchal roles to build the women's liberation and freedom movement

I hope some readers who are sensitive human being will try to understand the point I am making and deplore such popular presentation of regressive concepts on feminism.

Have a look at the film with those lenses.

meeta:

@Raj I have read and heard similar arguments against the film. I have my thoughts about that which I will pen down soon. Will post a link here when I do that.

Anuj:

DANGAL is not a social commentary on women's empowerment and nor is it meant to be a feminist propaganda. It a mass commercial entertainer based on a real life and set in a state like Haryana, well known for its skewed sex ratio and patriarchy, honor killings and gender stereotypes. Mahavir Phogat of Dangal identified the talent in his daughters, nurtured them and was a strict "coach", not a strict "father". As for the imposing bit, all he asked was from his wife was "1 year". Is that what we call "imposition" in our Indian society? Nitpicking critics and people who think its "cool" to go against the norm based on non factual arguments need a reality check.

Mr. Nadkarni:

Yes Anuj. Surprising thing, is that the same self proclaimed pseudo intellectual has given a Thumbs up for a trash movie named Chennai Express.

And maybe his explanation for this is the usual excuse given by many critics while rating Farah Khan\Rohit Shettty movies:" It is unapologetic unabashed masala". Chennai Express was a movie which one couldn't even sit through even if one left his brains at home. If that logic goes by,Dabanng is the most entertaining of them. Chennai Express entertainment value wasnt even 1% of Dabanng.

Its really gr8 that Aamir Khan is really pushing the boundaries even at a superstar stature of his by giving meaningful, wholesome entertainers and SRK is still stuck in the same rut of b-grade fare like HNY\Dilwale and Fan etc. Even his performance in Dear Zindagi was just a glorification of his so called charisma,nothing different or unique in that performance.

Its really unfortunate that to try to be different purposely in proving their worth,these 1% of critics have resorted to these lame reasons of pulling down Dangal because of the wrong message they believe it gives.

Then what was right in the message in Dear Zindagi?

Dangal is one of the best sports based biopics of India. Much better than the mediocre MS Dhoni and Mary Kom.

Raj:

I normally do not state my views until I feel strongly, and I do not feel anything "cool" about my views. Though based and inspired on some facts, the movie was not a true story it was fictional.

I understand the popularity of movie and that is what concerned me more - the repercussions of imitations and effect on children (not only girls) may not be good as they grow up.

The power of cinema is undeniable. As the movie was fictional - (the coach was shown in bad light which was not the case in real life) - I would have liked if Amir Khan would have shown the ending where girls not winning any medals - and then also it was okay for the father to accept them as their daughters, a feminine character - who is not imitating men and doing all bad/ stupids things men do in name of BRAVADO.

I agree the movie is very well made - A Sugar coated pill, and it is successful... People are enjoying it - but it leaves a psychological distortion of sorts on gender roles.

I know I am in a minority of sorts to nitpicks on things I feel strong. Sorry for that...!

Anup:

Anuj- Didnt liked Airlift. Didnt understand why people liked it so much. Havent met anyone in my know who have said that he liked it alot. Pretty workman like movie. Didnt raises the excitement level ever in the total movie. Its highly overrated. And we have already discussed it on Airlift's review.
And i guess if u can mention Flops like Wazir and Kahani 2 , i have pretty much Authority to mention ADHM UDTA PUNJAB AND RR 2.0
Everyone have their own choice. Its good thing that 7 of out movies match , and only three of them differ.

Anuj:

Wazir is nowhere near being a flop. Recorded 20% ROI & did 7.5 times it's day 1 collection making it a 65% word of mouth & a clean Average grosser. As for Airlift, 12 cr on day 1 & 126 lifetime. Over 80% word of mouth and over 1.3 cr footfalls for a niche urban film. Case closed !

Anup:

Anuj - sorry i m not getting the data you are providing.. . i am getting the data , it Cost 45 crore and earned 35.18 crores domestically in its lifetime , so can you provide any link from wherever you are getting the data..? So i guess case is not closed yet..
And for AIRLIFT i never questioned its box office performance , i just said that i cant understand how it earned so much....

Anuj:

bollywoodhungama, BOI.com or any other trade journal has confirmed WAZIR's cost to be between 35-38 cr and all India nett between 40-42 cr with a share of 20 cr+ and a footfall count of 42-45 lakh from 1600 screens, implying either an Average or a Below Average verdict. No distributor lost money on the film as confirmed by Komal Nahta in his FI journal. Even the small film, urban unfriendly BOI.com changed its verdict for Wazir from Flop to Below Average. So ya, i guess that's curtains down on 2016

http://bollywoodtradeguide.blogspot.in/

Anuj:

Perhaps even the city multiplexes' and urban India's taste is a lot different from your's and hence you fail to fathom Airlift's success amonf the multiplex audiences, the same audience that gave a unanimous thumbs down to Udta Punjab which crashed to a 60 cr finish after a huge 10 cr initial (thanks to the bogus controversies associated with this B-grade drug drama).

Anup:

Anuj - Ok , now i agree Wazir is not a flop , yet Wazir earned 7 crore profit with 35 crore budget , and Udta Punjab earned 20crore profit with 40 crore budget. With better reviews from critics and more rating on IMDB , its a clean win over WAZIR.
As for AIRLIFT , again i dont know why i have to like every movie which Urban Audience like. People cannhave different tastes. U have the same discussion with FAN , and he also mention that he didnt liked AIRLIFT also as much as you. And remember neither me or FAN said that we disliked AIRLIFT , we just find it Above Average. Thats my personal choice. U dont have to defend AIRLIFT everybody knows it did a good boxoffice run , but then again , many movie earn money which i dont like..

Anuj:

The only reason Udta Punjab became a commercial success is due to pre release controversies and negative publicity. Box office trend is the best judge of a movie's acceptance & word of mouth. Wazir (5 cr) opened at half the initial number of Udta Punjab (10 cr) and yet in the final tally the difference between the 2 films was down to 30%. Wazir did close to 8 times its day 1 number indicating a 70% recommendation rate amongst its viewers, while Udta Punjab did just 6 times its day 1 number indicating a 50% recommendation rate amongst its viewers. Its not that Udta Punjab was a more accepted film, its just that it was a more watched film. Something akin to Happy New Year being a more watched film compared to Holiday, despite Holiday being a more accepted film.

Anuj:

Mind you, this is not a wazir vs udtapunjab analogy and nor am i trying to justify which is a better film. Its an analogy based on trending scores and acceptance levels of the limited target audience of both the films. Of course everyone is bound to have their personal preferences, just like I do with films carrying a mixed response like Kahaani 2 and Shivaay.

Anup:

Anuj - Thats it then. There was nothing to discuss. U asked me to tell u my best 10. i mentioned them , the conversation must have been ended their , because i didn't questioned when you mentioned your top ten..

Anuj:

Both happy and amazed at the theatrical performance of DANGAL. Perhaps the first time in my lifetime that an 8/10 rated movie has gone to become a Mega Blockbuster and broken box office records.The last Mega Blockbuster movie that was an 8/10 or higher imo was SHOLAY. All the rest, be it MPK, HAHK, DDLJ, Gadar, 3I, PK & Bajrangi Bhaijaan are either a 6/10 or a 7/10. The one's rated an 8/10 or a 9/10 have either flopped (eg. Lakshya) or have only been small scale hits with a limited target audience (A Wednesday, Satya, Kahaani etc)

Akhil:

I think Aamir khan is the only responsible actor who have always been making movies which whole family can watch together and get inspired. I wish, Aamir sir will make more of such movies and make everybody else proud. thanks

Fan:

I would quote a part of what Anuj wrote,

you need a star power to make a film work (unfortunate truth of our audience)

When I look at Dangal, and when I compare it with another film that I loved dearly, Nil Battey Sannata, I see lots of similarities. And I see NBS the winner between the two as it is more realistic and near the heart. Unfortunately NBS did not have the star power to give it the success that Dangal obtained.

Personally I have always been a strong demander and upholder of responsible film making. Films are a very powerful medium, and tend to influence heavily the audiences all across the country. And in that sense it is very important to have responsible films. And that's where Dangal fails, and fails miserably. The film heavily dipped in patriarchal tones (under the pretext of representing the real Haryana scene), and promoting dangerous physical training practices - the film is nothing but a celebration of Amir's stardom. That a large part of Haryana is patriarchal, is not disputed. But having the heavily followed star play and promote such practices is what I find very irresponsible. As regards the physical training schedule, the human body like any other machine needs a correct balance between stress and rest. The best of the best sportsmen and sportswomen too ensure the correct balance between these two, the lack of which can/will lead to serious bodily harm. And promoting an exercise schedule that is imposed by the coach and then doubled by the family coach is once again an irresponsible act.

So, for everyone getting lump in their throats about a real-life film, I am sorry to state that the film is as fictitious as things can get in Bollywood.

That part cleared, if we look at it as any other Bollywood film, it is indeed a good film - technically well made and well performed by the characters. So yes, do recommend it. But if you must select only one between Dangal and Nil Battey Sannata, then I would still recommend NBS - which has similar storyline, similar message, similar rebellion by daughter to discourage the parents, similar perseverance by a parent to ensure the child succeeds, and similarly brilliant performances.

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