Dangal movie review: Aamir Khan, his Phogat girls show how blood, sweat, tears make champions

Dangal movie review: If Aamir Khan hadn't green-lit it, Dangal would never have been made. Aamir imbues the film with a sincerity of purpose that makes it so much more than a starry vehicle.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi | Updated: December 24, 2016 2:03 pm
dangal movie review, dangal review, dangal, aamir khan, dangal aamir, movie review, dangal image Dangal movie review: Aamir Khan knows when to ratchet it up and when to let it go. A stellar supporting cast raises the bar.

Dangal movie cast: Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Sheikh, Sanya Malhotra, Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar, Ritwik Sahore, Aparshakti Khurana, Girish Kulkarni

Dangal movie director: Nitesh Tiwari

Dangal movie rating: Three stars

There comes a time when a star gives in to the demands of a role which he knows will make him not-pretty: as a wannabe wrestler past his prime, Aamir Khan is squat, with a heavy belly, a deliberate gait, and a grizzled beard in Dangal. Only his jutting ears are familiar: the rest of him is pure character.

We are going to have to measure Aamir Khan’s future performances with this one: as Mahavir Singh Phogat, failed wrestler, rough-hewn authoritarian, but caring husband and father of four girls, he scales it up to a point where you can see the star take on a character, try it for size, and make it his own.

Watch: Aamir Khan’s Dangal wins audience’s heart

That was crucial for us to believe in Dangal, which borrows several elements from the real-life Haryana wrestler who trained his older two daughters, Geeta (Fatima Sana Shaikh) and Babita (Sanya Malhotra), in the art of wrestling, and turned them into winners.

Dangal works on the twin parameters it sets up for itself. One is a straight-forward film about a popular sport and those who play it: we feel and smell the `mitti’ of the `akhara’, the `daanv-pench’ (moves) that truly skilled wrestlers use to face down formidable foes. We see the blood, sweat and tears that go into the making of champions.

Watch | 5 Reasons To Watch Aamir Khan And Sakshi Tanwar Starrer Dangal

The other is a strong feminist statement about girls being the equal of boys, if not better, in an area they’ve never been seen, let alone accepted. When Mahavir steps into that tricky arena, he is derided and ridiculed: so are his young female charges, as well as their mother (Sakshi Tanwar) who could not bear sons.

In the Khap-ridden state of Haryana, where baby girls are still murdered at birth, and ‘honour killing’ is practiced with impunity and condoned (you may be over 18, but you have no right over your life), there cannot be a more important statement, especially when it comes from a big star.

Watch: Aamir Khan’s Dangal Facebook Live

The grizzled wrestler has to work his way to believing in his daughters, and in the fact that his ‘chhoris’ are no less than ‘chhoras’. It echoes the belief the real-life Phogat showed in his girls, as they went on to win medals and prizes in national and international arenas ( gold and silver medals in Commonwealth games, Olympic qualifier).

The actors who play the young Geeta and Babita (Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar) do a competent job of turning into eager combatants from young-girls-who-just-want-to-have-fun. And both Shaikh and Malhotra carry it forward, especially when they spend a lot of the second half on the mat, learning how to lose, and, above all, to win.

Read: Aamir Khan’s Dangal opens big at the US box office

You know how this will end. And that makes many of the beats predictable. There are times when the film feels flat, and gets into repetitive loops. Those are times you feel like it should have been tighter. But you end up being impressed by the authenticity of the milieu, both in the sporting arena, as well as the domestic one: the girls jousting for that precious medal are not just going through the motions — they are fighting.

Some near-pedestrian bits are offset by the performances. The first-timers — as little girls, and young women learning to gauge their opponent and beating all comers; no silver medals, only gold — all come off well. So does their cousin who is the funny-bone-cum-sutradhar (the boy is Ritwik Sahore and the young adult, Aparshakti Khurana): both are spot on in deportment and accent. Tanwar, as Khan’s wife, is a good choice, just familiar enough, and yet new enough. The sole iffy element here is the usually excellent Girish Kulkarni, who plays the ‘official’ coach happy to settle for less, so different from Papa Go-For-Gold-Phogat : he never seems to get his limbs dirty, and spends his time smirking.

dangal movie review, dangal, dangal REVIEW, aamir khan, aamir khan film Dangal movie review: The actors who play the young Geeta and Babita do a competent job of turning into eager combatants from young-girls-who-just-want-to-have-fun.

But Aamir makes it all right. The film wouldn’t have been made if he hadn’t green-lit it, and he brings to it the sincerity of purpose which makes it not just a starry vehicle, but a film which is about something, which has meaning, with a message which doesn’t overwhelm the telling.

It could have easily turned into a vanity project, which is a clear and present danger when it comes to anything involving big stars. It could have been made more polished than required. In places it is stolid, and could have done with some lift, but it is solid all the way through. And, most crucially, it stays real, because the star ratchets it up when required, and lets it go in the rest.

For all the latest Entertainment News, download Indian Express App now

First Published on: December 22, 2016 12:25 am
  1. R
    RD
    Jan 11, 2017 at 9:37 pm
    BOO to "SHUBHRA GUPTA" who wrote this article and gave 3 stars.....really, I am sure she is one of those who must have got big check to write a bad/ok review.lt;br/gt;My parents, my kids and myself...all 3 generation will give this movie at least 4.5 start.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;At least we know how what kind of critic is Shubhra Gupta
    Reply
    1. B
      BIPIN GUPTA
      Jan 10, 2017 at 5:43 am
      It certainly deserves a 4/5 Rating. This Reviewer may not have seen the w movie or is not qualified to be a Movie Reviewer.lt;br/gt;It shows rural India at its best and the determination of a Father to prove Girls can be just as good as Boys. A theme close to the heart of our PM Mr. Modi.lt;br/gt;I come from a Town where the Akhara with its Red Mud and ji in one corner was just a few feet away from our haveli. lt;br/gt;So me and my elder brother got a Red Katcha and would go to this Akhara, Red Mud all over our body.lt;br/gt;Very lovable and simple movie.lt;br/gt;Begone you silly Reviewer.
      Reply
      1. J
        Jijo
        Jan 5, 2017 at 1:02 am
        Hey author see the movie first and write the review
        Reply
        1. G
          Gary
          Jan 13, 2017 at 11:39 am
          Worst reviewer I've ever come across .. wonder why is she still not fired lol
          Reply
          1. P
            Pinky Kalwani
            Jan 4, 2017 at 4:43 am
            OMG What a reply. 1
            Reply
            1. K
              Kirthi
              Jan 10, 2017 at 8:13 am
              U gave the movie 3 stars,but every day u write an article about the same movie breaking records.
              Reply
              1. M
                Maz K
                Jan 7, 2017 at 11:38 pm
                How did this critic do any justice by giving Dangal the same 3/5 as she had done for Sultan? Dangal should be a notch above Sultan as a movie. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;It appears that personal opinions about Aamir Khan (especially after his comments on 'intolerance') may have been clouding the judgement on his movies for some people. The editorial board of "The Indian Express" should take notice.
                Reply
                1. M
                  munagaala srinivasa
                  Jan 14, 2017 at 6:36 pm
                  this is the movie to show to our childrens. victory will not come unless there is no hard work
                  Reply
                  1. N
                    newxhub
                    Jan 21, 2017 at 6:38 am
                    i love this site so much boom site ever
                    Reply
                    1. N
                      newxhub
                      Jan 21, 2017 at 6:38 am
                      for me here
                      Reply
                      1. R
                        Raksha
                        Jan 5, 2017 at 4:17 pm
                        Beautifully made movie... A must see for all
                        Reply
                        1. R
                          RAGHu ram
                          Jan 10, 2017 at 3:39 am
                          It's really bad of giving 3/5 ratin, as I was concerned its 4.5/5 may be 5/5
                          Reply
                          1. R
                            RAGHu ram
                            Jan 10, 2017 at 3:37 am
                            It's a superb movie, it will remains as one of the best movies aameerkhan did......that girl did so hard workk it seems that she learned entire wrestling for this movie.
                            Reply
                            1. S
                              Shaira
                              Feb 20, 2017 at 4:25 am
                              This movie is really a motivation to the youngsters as well as to all those gmother's who desire for a gson.
                              Reply
                              1. S
                                srinath
                                Jan 12, 2017 at 4:15 pm
                                oy .... ARE YOU KNOW ABOUT MOVIE REVIEWING.... WORST FELLOW ....Worst INDIAN EXPRESS NEWS...
                                Reply
                                1. V
                                  vj
                                  Jan 11, 2017 at 2:39 pm
                                  im not saying dangal is overated but....lt;br/gt;in my opinion " kadhoos" was also nice....coz both films revolved aroung the same story....but u guys said it was predictable...yes of course like dangal...my opinion as a critic is that u r showing partiality !!...
                                  Reply
                                  1. A
                                    Aravind
                                    Dec 24, 2016 at 10:00 am
                                    I just want to ask is there a better film than Dangal? How could Fantastic Beasts could be a 4stars? .5 more for English!
                                    Reply
                                    1. A
                                      Amirfan
                                      Dec 23, 2016 at 11:28 am
                                      Supurb👍5/5lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Gr8 Work
                                      Reply
                                      1. I
                                        Igniter
                                        Dec 22, 2016 at 5:05 am
                                        Well said.. :)
                                        Reply
                                        1. M
                                          Mohit
                                          Dec 24, 2016 at 2:59 pm
                                          Cmmon indian express, dont act as pure loosers, trying to under estimate the pure genius of a film. Not even a single star for your baised and paid review!!
                                          Reply
                                          1. R
                                            Rajasimha
                                            Dec 25, 2016 at 9:00 pm
                                            Dangal is a movie respecting girl child , truly good attempt but , I felt two points were not good , director says women is no where less but in a dialogue while the kid Geetha is fighting with girls the voice over says "" Geetha fought and won over many boys and these are JUST girls "" this just girls dialogue was shocking as the story is saying girls are best - also I felt the mother character should also have credit in their child's victory- leaving some similarities with sultan this is a great attempt by mr.perfect
                                            Reply
                                            1. Load More Comments