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quick review:

A charming, uplifting film, about a mother going about the business of being a mother, the warmth of which you will feel well after you have left the theatre.

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Running time: 130 minutes
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The first surprise is that looks like the film is not based on a real-life story. As bizarre as it sounds, this is refreshing. A film based on a relatively ‘different’ theme—that of a woman taking on a sport way past her prime as a sportsperson—is originally written for the screen.

That the trailer gives the sense of it being slice-of-middle-class-India-life is endearing. I am especially looking forward to Neena Gupta’s character, who plays the protagonist’s proudly unsupportive woman. Another movie directed and written by a woman with a woman central character. I like this changing face of Hindi films. Hopefully, I will like the film too!

Panga releases on 24 January 2020.

- meeta, a part of the audience

Such an ordinary story, but such an unordinary film! Almost every other capable woman around you charts a career path ‘going with the flow’ rather than deliberately pushing herself in a specific direction. Jaya Nigam’s (Kangna Ranaut) son’s aspirations drive her back into her life as a sportsperson. She happens to be in the right time and the right place for an opening in a corporate kabaddi team. A national team coach who is a long-term strategist paves her way. But it is such an out-of-the-ordinary film—about the day-to-day, unquestioned personal sacrifices a woman makes as a mother, but it doesn’t once glorify motherhood.

had any of the actors over-played even a tiny notch, the characters could have become caricaturish

It’s easy to do the most difficult job in the world—be only a mother. It’s so much more complicated when she feels small because she doesn’t allow the human in her to have aspirations. It’s earth-shattering, or like a character in the film says, “I predict an earthquake,” when a mother chooses to break the barrier and give her ambition a shot. And the social implications crush her soul if the ‘working’ mother doesn’t have an enabling support system. Panga says all of this without announcing it out loud. In fact, it tells some of these things by not even mentioning them.

Why else would a woman boast that she doesn’t need to take her husband’s permission to do what she wants? Shouldn’t that be the default? Panga uses the more-or-less progressive husband to shine a spotlight on what many men in his position aren’t like. Also, regressive characters must not really fit into the positive tilt the film clearly wants to carry.

It actually goes a bit further and shows the audience a mirror. For a bit, when the family is suffering while Jaya is working towards representing her country in an international event, the film moves the spotlight on us. “Are you feeling sorry for the family that isn’t being able to cope because the woman of the house is not around?” “Are you wondering if it was the right call for her to aband... leave them to her own resources, even if it is for a bit?” “Should she have trained them to be more independent?” There are other times when her guilt translates to her picking a fight with her husband, Prashant Sachdeva (Jassie Gill). And you feel bad for him. “Did you catch yourself calling her unreasonable because you wouldn’t have called Prashant unreasonable if the roles were exchanged?”

None of these undercurrents is explicit in the film, but it reaches the audience. Which is why, the lead character, Jaya, is not the best-written character in the movie. It is the ever-understanding, doing-the-right-thing husband, Prashant which must have been a struggle to write. Striking a balance between wanting his wife to do well and yet revealing the inconvenience to himself in just the right amount, is no easy task. But, Panga manages to achieve that and more.

While writing Jaya’s struggle must have flowed smoother than the rest, balancing between over-doing and under-doing, her inner battle must have been a mean task. Similarly, the smart-Alec 7-8-year-old son, Adi (Yagya Bhasin), the alter-ego best-friend Meenu (Richa Chadda), the supportive-but-not-supportive mother (Neena Gupta), the always-there neighbour, the new-best-friend Nisha Das, all completed the picture without becoming run-of-the-mill filler characters.

Jaya’s mother, for instance, says upfront that she is not supportive of Jaya’s decision to go back to playing kabaddi. And she stays consistent even when she is proud of her daughter. Adi is a smarty-pants but behaves his age when it comes to dealing with disappointment. The writers have a firm grip on such nuances in the personalities of their non-lead characters. This makes the unreal, fairy-tale-like story of Panga, believable. Doable in real-life. That hope, the intentional simplification makes Panga endearing and moving at the same time.

Panga uses the more-or-less progressive husband to shine a spotlight on what many men in his position aren’t like.

The simplification seems intentional because the distance from standard sport-film tropes seems deliberate. The villain is the woman’s internal struggle. The villain is the situation she finds herself in owing to normalised gender roles. And these villains can give the Gabbar Singhs and the Jokers a good run for their money. And yet Jaya’s life doesn’t have the villains often seen in real-life society.

Of course, the writers could get away with this bit because the entire cast looks, talks, and behaves like someone you have met in real life. Sure, they represent only one small section of the population, but we all know that one ever-available neighbour, that doting husband, the taunting mother, the just-because rival. But had any of the actors over-played even a tiny notch, the characters could have become caricaturish.

They also add to the cheerful texture of the film. Even as you see Jaya being belittled, you know that she is mostly content with her life as a mother, as a wife. You see the commentary on the importance of “getting married” in a girl’s life, but it is turned into a joke. You see boys and men being sensitised to the insensitivity of gender roles, ever so slowly—I especially enjoyed seeing them realise the willpower needed to be supportive. I wish we could see a little more of their internal dialogue. But I assume that would have to come at the cost of spelling things out, and in that case, I am happy they left it out. The generalisations through comments on things like moms’ Whatsapp groups are as amusing as they hit the right spots.

It is also interesting that “women empowerment” isn’t thrown into your face until mass media enters the story. So, a movie which is end-to-end about empowering women doesn’t actually beat its chest about it. Also, A sports film that uses sports only as a medium to amplify the point it wants to make. Sure, it has its underdog bits and its “last second” clincher bits to add to the drama in its narrative. But they all seem secondary.

Even as some of these moments and/or situations weaken the telling, especially in the second half, they are also the most heartening bits about Panga. These shifts in story-telling are not done too often in Hindi cinema, yet the trials are becoming normal. The experimentation with writing that 2020 has already seen treats the audience with respect. And gives birth to the hope that trying to tell regular stories differently will oxymoronically become the norm.

- meeta, a part of the audience

30 reviewers(?) - 23 yays 7 so-so 0 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...I’d have probably forgotten these are characters in a film and not people I know in real life, if there wasn’t so much background music constantly punctuating the emotions. Panga really needs no prompting to be loved. You surrender to its affectionate homage to the housewife’s revived dreams wholeheartedly. No questions asked.... full review

Thumbs up, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, PANGA is a progressive and touching sports drama that works thanks to its plot, execution, some fine moments and of course the superlative performance of Kangana Ranaut. At the box office, it faces tough competition from STREET DANCER 3D and also the holdover release TANHAJI: THE UNSUNG WARRIOR and hence it’ll need a strong word of mouth to succeed.... full review

Thumbs up, by Urmimala Banerjee, Bollywood Life : ...Panga addresses all issues right from how motherhood is a reason of major conflict for a mother to how society views the productivity of moms at the workplace. In a subtle way, it sends all the right messages. Panga is a heart-warming film in all respects.... full review

Thumbs up, by SUPARNA SHARMA, Deccan Chronicle : ...Panga taught me a lot about kabaddi — what is a raid, how a dead player can come alive. But what I really enjoyed watching was the girls’ victory gesture — simultaneously slapping their thigh and raising a hand in a gesture of, teri toh… It’s called the thigh-five.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...Panga is a film made by a woman, with women at its centre, making out a case for women needing to push for comebacks. It makes the right kind of noise about women empowerment without being preachy. And it's a whole lot of fun besides. Take a bow, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and her braveheart actors for taking this panga and coming on top...... full review

Thumbs up, by Madhuri V, Filmi Beat : ...Panga is a film which takes you on a roller coaster of emotions and inspires you to never stop chasing your dreams because they do come true.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vishal Verma, : ...PANGA had the potential to be turned into a masterpiece looking at the potential of the plot, the caliber of Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and Nitesh Tiwari as story tellers and the awesome power of Kangana Ranaut as an actress who hardly goes wrong. It has glaring flaws as a sports flick but it triumph as an motivationally emotional family drama is undeniable.... full review

Thumbs up, by Monika Rawal Kukreja, Hindustan Times : ...Other than that, this wholesome family film is a must watch for the way it is told, for being real and for the emotional chord it strikes with you from the very beginning.... full review

Thumbs up, by Ankur Pathak, Huffington Post : ...Panga is a quiet triumph, a film that gently explores the guilt women feel and are made to feel for pursuing their dreams and why they should do it nonetheless. It also emphasises the need to create a culture where those choices aren’t questioned but supported. Does it invisibilise the misogyny omnipresent in middle-class India? Nope. It dares to imagine what a world looks like without it.... full review

Thumbs up, by Nairita Mukherjee, india today : ...Panga is a good reminder that we all matter, individually, in our own way, in our own stories. It's a reminder to hold on to that little ball of confidence in you. And it's a reminder that Kangana doesn’t need to actually take panga, she can simply make one.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sonal Gera, India TV : ...Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music is not brilliant, but adds to the narrative. The romantic track sure stands out.... full review

Thumbs up, by R.M. Vijayakar, India West : ...Yagya Bhasin is a precious find and his expressions and intonations are to die for. We hope to see more and more of him. Jassie Gill is perfect as the low-key Prashant, the backbone of Jaya’s life. Neena Gupta is a delight. Richa Chadha, after a rather unsure and low-key start, gets into the mood and delivers a solid performance. Her deadpan, slightly rural delivery of her lines gives them a rare flavor. A special note for Megha Burman, who is outstanding as Jaya’s roommate and later close friend: she is superb in a brief role.... full review

Thumbs up, by Ambika Sachin, Khaleej Times : ...In the end Panga is an endearing and inspiring tale of a woman's attempt to reclaim her identity in a world that is content to relegate her as simply a wife and a mother. And for most women clearly that's not enough. Watch Panga if you enjoy slice-of-life movies with a dash of everyday humour thrown in. Who knows there may be a Jaya waiting to regain her glory days in some of you! And Panga could well be the nudge that many require to shake off their complacency and rediscover their true identity.... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...Of course one has to credit writer-director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (Nil Battey Sannata, Bareilly Ki Barfi) for effectively lacing it all with a touch of humour, warmth, empathy, besides full-on action on the kabaddi mat. Looking deeper, what stand out are aspects in this movie that reveal an eye for detail. For delight is always in the detail.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shalini Sur, Movie Talkies : ...If you have a mother like most of us, who has sacrificed their entire life by boxing their dreams and aspiration to mould the dreams of our lives, this film will hit you hard, and make you want to be those wings in your mother's life, that will let her take the flight, to take the 'Panga', that she always wanted to take in her life. I will give this film a four out of five stars, and recommend all to go for a movie date with your Mommies this weekend, to watch Panga.... full review

Thumbs up, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...Jaya Nigam’s story may be about an athlete’s struggles in reclaiming her lost glory. But significantly, it’s about allowing yourself to blindly follow your true calling.... full review

Thumbs up, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...The supporting actors, spearheaded by Richa Chadha in an extended cameo that livens up Panga a few notches, are first-rate. Both Megha Burman and Smita Tambe, embodying two ends of the film's kabaddi spectrum, deserve special mention for their sterling show on and off the court, while the seasoned Neena Gupta, somewhat underserved by the screenplay, loses no opportunity to make her presence felt.Sensitive and riveting at once, Panga is a not-to-be-missed gem.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rajeev Masand, : ...The film’s big success is in delivering its message without making a big noise about it. Panga is all about its little moments. It’s a film about love disguised as a sports-movie. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five. It fills you with hope and warmth. We could all do with that in these times.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vaibhavi V Risbood, Pinkvilla : ...Panga is a film which can be watched with the entire family. Do not mistake it for a movie on Kabaddi. It’s the story that reminds you that it’s never too late to fulfil your inner desires. Perhaps, Panga will make you pick up the phone and call that Jaya who marched into oblivion just because we were too busy to spot and encourage her to chase her dream.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Panga doesn't preen in idealism as much as surround itself with positivity and decency.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vinayak Chakravorty, Sify Movies : ...Panga is effectively shot, with Jay I. Patel's camera complimenting the overall mellow tone of the film, although the editing (Ballu Saluja) could have been tighter in places. The film reiterates the idea that it is never quite too late to start chasing your dream - which gives it instant winnability.... full review

Thumbs up, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ...All one can say is that the characters in the film, the writing and filmmaking itself are all about taking panga with the defined and the established norms. The kind of panga that deserves more power.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sreeparna Sengupta,, Times of India : ...This ode to motherhood and chasing one’s dreams is a must watch.... full review

So-So, by Deepa Gahlot, Deepa Gahlot : ...Despite the director’s leg-up for female empowerment, and several little perceptive moments, Panga is rather bland, and, quite frankly, kabaddi is not a very exciting spectator sport, so the endless matches are tedious to watch. Kangana Ranaut is in turn earnest and fiery as required by the script, but Jassie Gill excels in the more complex part, Richa Chadha gets the best lines, and Yagya Bhasin as a wise and incipient feminist steals the show.... full review

So-So, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...I will take this, if it comes with a film that celebrates a woman trying to reclaim her dream, even if it comes sanctioned by family. The film springs to life when Jaya raises her fist, and slaps her thigh: it is a ‘panga’ worth taking.... full review

So-So, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Panga makes a daring comment on women empowerment & how every mother deserves a second chance. Backed with some brilliant performances, it connects you with the drama with some inhibitions.... full review

So-So, by Uday Bhatia, Live Mint : ...The kabaddi isn’t badly executed but because the film takes its time building to Jaya’s comeback, the final championship is both rushed and predictable.... full review

So-So, by Nandini Ramnath, : ...Panga seems to be saying that behind every successful woman is a man telling her she is right. A less sentimental and more hard-headed movie might have allowed Jaya to go it alone. Her big win in the kabaddi tournament is a shared one – a nice touch in a sports movie – but we are never allowed to forget that Jaya’s victory off the pitch is actually split three ways.... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

2 readers - 2 yays 0 so-so 0 nays

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Mahesh Verma : Great Movie and amazing performance of Kangana

Yay! Thumbs Up, by rohan : In Panga movie trailer, Kabbadi sport has been put in centre of interest.Rating: 4.5(out of 5stars)

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: None
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: Aspirations of a woman for herself as an individual
  • General Look and Feel: Fresh, cheerful, hopeful

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Panga - Cast, crew, links

Official Sites:
Supporting Cast:
Running time:
130 minutes

Comments (1)

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Nice movie and great performance of Kangana

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