While compared to its western counterpart, Bollywood as an industry has always sluggishly tried to continue its traditions and follow its roots. While the rest of cinema moves on, experimenting with new techniques and creating stories that are provocative and require more than just a screenplay, actors, and a camera; Bollywood usually manages to stick to its cultural and commercial norms. However, there are few that consistently wish to bring change to this ecosystem, and Aamir Khan is one of them.
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The Movie Review
Often known as Mr. Perfectionist, Aamir Khan’s film Dangal was hailed by critics and audiences alike as a revolutionary tale of growth and will. While the film showed a story of growth, progressive prowess, and willpower; for Aamir Khan, it was to showcase his dedication to playing the parts he wanted to play, and show the stories he wanted to show. Dangal is an amalgamation of progressive themes, a guilty letter on what not to do as parents, and a guideline for how women in the third world need to be given their rights.
The biopic follows a former professional wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, who had become one of India’s most well-known wrestlers however he could not win any big medals. So, trying to recreate that; he forced his career on his daughters and pushed both of them into the world of professional wrestling. He trains his daughter Geeta and Babita, his methods are harsh and completely unorthodox; going so far as to cut their hair and forcing early morning workouts on them.
The story then changes focus from Mahavir and focuses on his daughter Geeta who has grown up with a small resentment with him and the ways he raised them.
Dangal is a journey of love, hardship, guilt, and acceptance and it showcases everything with full emotions on display. The film shows our characters from the highest of their highs to some absolute lows yet none of the moments feels exaggerated or melodramatic. The performances play a huge part in this though, and to explain the performances we would have to divide the film into before and after time-skip eras in Geeta’s life.
Mahavir Singh Phogat is played wonderfully by Aamir Khan, who gained a ton of weight to play the character. Aamir’s portrayal of Mahavir is a somber, yet truthful representation of how Asian parenting works for the most part. However, what took me by surprise was the portrayal of Geeta by both Zaira Wasim and Fatima Sana Shaikh. Zaira’s portrayal of a young, full of angst Geeta was phenomenal and it just reminded me how good of an actor this kid was.
However, what I didn’t expect was the sudden time-skip and the upgrade in acting brought in by Fatima Sana Shaikh as she portrays Geeta with honesty and maturity that was lacking in her teenage character. Aamir Khan’s character changes as well at this point, aging significantly and being a much older version of Mahavir Singh Poghat. The film just essentially keeps developing its characters, both in terms of their writing and their physical looks.
Of course, we can’t talk about Dangal without mentioning how incredibly sharp the writing in this film is. Nitesh Tiwari’s adaptation of Mahavir Singh’s story is something of a magical realism tale. The film’s direction makes it all feel somewhat like a dream for Mahavir, yet at times it breaks through those barriers with darker colors and sharper, lonelier moments to showcase that Geeta’s life is actually affected by everything that is happening.
This story of remedial moments between father and daughters would be nothing if not for the amazing cinematography by Satyajit Pande. His shots paint pictures, and his lighting brings warmth and the occasional cold to the entirety of the film.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, Aamir Khan Productions and Nitesh Tiwari’s direction drives this film from start to finish in a non-stop drama. It touches on a plethora of themes, such as female empowerment, hardships of parenting, the hardships of growing up as an Asian child, and making your dreams come true. The story is inspirational, dream-like, and at times; very real. Dangal is an influential film, which paves the way for gender equality to rise up in Bollywood. It’s the highest-grossing Bollywood movie to date, and the reason why is that it’s just phenomenal!