5 out of 5
“Dangal” is Hindi word for wrestling. Like the sport, the film is intense and exhillirating. It is based on a true story of Phogat Sisters, four sisters plus two female cousins from Haryana, India who are all wrestlers. The film puts two of Phogat’s eldest, Geeta and Babita, as well as their father Mahavir as the main characters.
The story starts with Mahavir having to give up his dream of becoming an international wrestling champion due to financial difficulties. He then takes an average joe job in order to support his family. His new dream is to have a son whom he can train to be a champion. But instead, his wife got him four daughters.
At first, Mahavir is disappointed. But then he realizes that gold is gold, regardless it is won by a boy or a girl. He then starts a grueling training regime for Geeta and Babita. Resulting in the girls having to endure physical pain as well as mockery from their schoolmates and fellow villagers.
The great thing about the film is that it touches several important issues like gender equality and child marriage without being preachy. In the beginning, Mahavir sees that daughters are only good for doing chores. As a father he is quite grim that his girls will have to be married off at a young age. In India, especially the rural places, girls are married from the age of 7 to 15 year old. But through wrestling, Mahavir finds out that his girls can have better chances in the world. Not just giving them ability, but also the opportunity to contribute something big to the country.
The film is well-acted. Aamir Khan who plays Mahavir is a perfectionist as always. But the credits should go to the girls. Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar as young Geeta and Babita deliver solid performances. Their chemistry as sisters as well as their commitment as wrestlers shone throughout the films. Fatima Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra as adult Geeta and Babita continue to bring that through the second half of the film.
This is more than a regular coming-of-age or an inspirational film. This is willpower, by the father and by the daughters. Like Mahavir said when he was interviewed by CNN, “if a female can be a prime minister, they can also be wrestlers”. Kick-ass wrestlers for sure.