Tau Toh Champion Hai!
Much has been said about how Aamir Khan prepared himself for the role of an ex-wrestler who channels his ambition for an international gold medal through his daughters, training them to become champions. Dangal is a quintessential sports movie, where you know the protagonist is an underdog and will eventually win. But what a watch it is!
'Tau was unpredictable.' the nephew says, and the movie which is a paint by numbers, formulaic sports movie begins its journey. 'Silver medals are forgotten, to become a 'misaal' you have to win the gold' is just fantastic advice to everyone especially because Indians are happy to grow up with 'participating is more important than winning.'
The film especially hits hard at the mismanaged Sports Authorities of the country run by bureaucrats who care more about 'medal quota' than training in the best possible way. the film Mary Kom touched upon the cancer but there was no effect. No change has occurred. Hopefully, someone in the apathetic government will do something about this corrupt, uncaring system.
In Dangal too, the head coach for the India team chooses to play dirty. And by the time the story arrives at this point, you have been happily manipulated into watching how Tau manages to sacrifice his life as father to becoming coach.
Aamir Khan produces and acts in the movie directed marvelously by Nitesh Tiwari. It is the story of Mahavir Singh Phogat, an ex-wrestler who hopes his son will win the international medal in the sport. He has given up hopes because he only has daughters. But when he realises that his daughters have more spunk than he gave them credit, he trains them into becoming champions. An interesting slap to the land where patriarchy is a way of life, Mahavir Singh Phogat breaks many taboos. Considering the times in which we are living, the film certainly makes its presence felt. Since it is biographical, it seems predictable, but so much better and smarter than the MS Dhoni bipic we saw not too long ago.
They say thousands of girls have now taken to wrestling as a sport in North India, and I hope it inspires many more to step out of the traditional roles given to them and play.
Nitesh Tiwari has the rare talent to hold your attention throughout the telling of the tale, and has control of the star who generally tends to outshine everyone and everything else in his movies. Aamir Khan actually plays Mahavir Singh Phogat and he director manages to keep the star in check (although he lingers too lovingly on his moroseness, his anger), not allowing Aamir a single triumphant see-i'm-a perfectionist smirk. And Aamir does not disappoint, he does a fabulous job in two roles: the father and the coach. Sakshi Tanwar, the perfect TV bhabi manages to fit perfectly in the role of his wife.
The little The little Haryana town has been created wonderfully with all its eccentric characters and the story happens so naturally, you sit back and enjoy the popcorn. The training of Geeta and Babita, the townsfolk sniggering at Mahavir’s efforts, the two girls and their cousin fighting the training tooth and nail then finally agreeing, the local ‘dangals’(wrestling contests), the state championships, the national championships and so on…it follows a paint by numbers pattern. But the story is told from the point of view of the young cousin, forced to train with the girls, who grows up as one of the best characters we have seen introduced on screen this year. Actor Aparshakti Khurrana deserves kudos for keeping us glued to the screen by telling us the story in an engaging anecdotal manner.
The two girls Geeta and Babita are played by really sweet child stars Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar and they grow up to be Fatima Sana Sheikh and Sanya Malhotra. The little girls are just adorable. They try everything they possibly can to not become ‘pehelwaans’ their father wants them to be. They want wear nail polish, dance at weddings and eat chaat and pickles with their food.
The transformation of these kids into champion wrestlers is amazing. Indians tend to just look upon cricket as religion. This movie catapults and not so known sport of wrestling and bring it mainstream. Credit is hugely due to Aamir Khan for finding a cause for women’s sports and the movie really, really works in that regard. Thankfully the preaching is restricted only to one dialog and it does not jar your senses that much.
Yes, the championship matches seem too long, but I suppose they are a necessary evil. They have been recreated brilliantly, and at one point in the semi-finals, the entire audience is holding its collective breath. And that’s a triumph, isn’t it?
This film has tears, patriotic heart-swell, happiness, frustration, anger, pain and everything you expect from a sports film. But it is wrapped in gentle humor and that makes this film a must see. It is a great way to end the year and will get counted as one of the ten best films of 2016.
P.S: Since this film is called 'Dangal' there are many, many wrestler crotch shots, i mean, those red langot shots. Keep your popcorn and drink away from mouth so you won't choke in your giggles, if you are the easy-to-giggle type of person...