When the news of Aamir Khan doing a film on the life of Mahavir Phogat came out, many were surprised as the former wrestler doesn’t have a sporting feat to his name that people can truly celebrate. Yes, he was conferred with the Dronacharya Award for guiding his daughter Geeta and Babita Phogat to the Commonwealth Games glory in 2010 but CWG is not as celebrated a platform as Olympics or Asian Games. India’s dismal medal tally in Olympic history is a reflection of that.
So what new could Aamir have told the audience in a year which had a film on India’s most successful cricket captain coming out and Eid weekend had been booked by the country’s most bankable star, Salman Khan, for another film on wrestling. Athletes such as Milkha Singh and Mary Kom had been the subjects of past biopics.
But expect Aamir Khan to come up with the unexpected and Dangal is a proof of that. Dangal has managed to surpass all the films of its genre and turned out to be the best description of sports and sportsmen on celluloid so far. Credit, of course, goes to Nitesh Tiwari for his inspiring script and absorbing direction and brilliant performances by Aamir Khan and the young actors. They have given their sweat and blood to get all the daav-pech of wrestling and acting right in the film. Not to forget, the funny narration by Phogat’s nephew reminds you of Madhavan from 3 Idiots.
Dangal can be called Aamir’s best role till date and one of the reviewers has rightly said that his future roles will always be measured against this one. We have seen him playing a rustic villager (Lagaan) and a rich urban guy (Dil Chahta Hai) in the same year (2011). We have seen him playing a courageous senior cop (Sarfarosh) and a jilted lover (1947 Earth) at the same time. We have seen him doing different shades of tapori in Rangeela and Ghulam. His versatility and perfection are always admired. But this time he shows another range which his contemporaries will find too hard to match. Yes, that’s Aamir as Mahavir Phogat for you. A Haryanvi wrestler whose dangal off the mat, with life, will leave you speechless.
But what makes Dangal different from other films of its genre? Firstly it doesn’t boast of heroics of the protagonist like a Sultan who challenges a wrestler double his weight category in the maiden tournament of his career and overpower him to win his lady love and bring the crowd to its feet. Well, Bhai to Bhai hain..kuch bhi kar saktey hain. Secondly, it doesn’t fictionalize the real elements to the point of absurdity, something which is common in Bollywood. Remember Milkha Singh filling a bucket with his sweat and breaking national record despite being in a bad health after being thrashed by his rivals? Thirdly, despite being predictable, it keeps you glued to your seats with its sheer detailing that you end being a fan of the game itself.
No over-the-top patriotism, no love angle, no far stretched emotions, nothing; it’s all real. You feel the pain of the daughters when Mahavir gets their hair cut off. You get angry when Mahavir and Geeta fight it out to prove their point. You feel bad when Geeta’s coach insults her real guru. You feel everything that the director would have expected his audience to feel.
And like every Aamir film, this also delivers a message… a message of women’s strength, courage, sacrifice, struggle, discipline. But nowhere in the process of delivering that message, the film gets tedious and that’s the strength of Tiwari’s story telling. This one is certainly unmissable for not just the fans but also for those obsessed with good cinema. Surely this is what most of us must have been waiting for a long time.