With the success of ‘Sultan’ earlier this year, ‘Dangal’ seemed to be a step up. It seems that Salman Khan and Aamir Khan were playing similar characters in both films but with ‘Dangal’ following the story of a father’s determination that his daughter will bring home an Olympic medal for India. Nitesh Tiwari directs this film which is based on the true life events of Mahavir Singh Phogat and his daughters Geeta and Babita. The early promos and songs have done much to highlight the kind of expectations people should have – as if a film by Aamir coming at the very end of a year wasn’t enough to go by! But the question on everyone’s lips is does the film deliver on these expectations?
Aamir steps into the shoes of Singh Phogat, who is passionate that as he couldn’t win an Olympic medal in wrestling for his country that his son would do the same. His fortune didn’t allow him to be the father of a son but instead of four daughters. When two of the eldest daughters, as teenagers, are evidently good at physically standing up for themselves, he believes that wrestling runs in their blood. He then start a mission to train them to be able to wrestle in tournaments with boys despite the discomfort shown by his loved ones and those within his village.
First, it has to be said that there really is not much comparison between the story of ‘Dangal’ and that of ‘Sultan’ even though some of Aamir and Salman’s characters are slightly similar. Tiwari does a fantastic job at keeping the viewers engaged during every scene, whether it’s through witnessing a struggle, conflict of opinion or indeed love between the family. At no point does the audience’s attention waiver and never do you once not understand or identify with the characters. The story intertwines emotions such as patriotism, sacrifice, vulnerability and uncertainty very well, giving way to a very well executed overall journey and little successes and failures within. The transition between the leaps when years go by is also very smooth with no feeling whatsoever of a change that makes one feel uneasy or as if the outcome is complicated.
As performances go, it is very easy to say that Aamir give his absolute career best when it seems he does this with every film he does. However, in ‘Dangal’, after some time, he plays a character which is of his own age for the most part. It’s evident that his effort to fit into this role was immense with the many struggles he faced when he put on weight for the film. This actually pays off tremendously for him as he looks almost unrecognisable in some portions which gives him an upper hand somewhat. The audiences are able to see him in a fresh light and as a father of two daughters that he believes in and wants to put in the history books, rather than as Aamir the actor. It’ll be tough for him to outdo this particular role and rightfully so as this is indeed one of his most natural and authentic performances til date.
Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar do a great job as the young Geeta and Babita, with their very real struggle seen in the song ‘Haanikaarak Bapu’. They deliver brilliantly in showing the conflict they feel between being forced to train to be wrestlers against their will and being normal schoolgirls. Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra, who play the older Geeta and Babita, are also particularly effective in showing their closeness to each other as well as their rift when the former goes outside of her father’s training for the sport. Sheikh’s performance is commendable as the daughter that Phogat never stops believing in and also as the one who starts to question her father’s teachings. Both actresses do exceptionally well in the scenes with Aamir in them, with perhaps the highlight being when Sheikh is seen wrestling with Aamir.
Sakshi Tanwar, most known for her television roles, makes a strong debut as Phogat’s wife. Her role isn’t extensive but she’s seen as a voice of reason at times as well as the mother who can’t always speak between her children and their father’s stubbornness. It would’ve been great to see a little more of her in the story though. Tanwar has always been a good actress and it remains to be seen whether this film gives way to more roles in cinema for her. Aparshakti Khurrana (Ayushmann’s brother) also gives a great debut performance in the small role he has as Phogat’s nephew, supporting the main cast very well.
There isn’t much more that can be said about ‘Dangal’ apart from it being an absolute pleasure to watch and a fantastically moving tribute to the Phogats who did indeed make history for wrestling in India. Aamir has placed their story on celluloid for people to take inspiration from over and over and there could be no better thing than this film to highlight that there are indeed families in the sub-continent who believe their daughters are no less than sons. That message is a strong and important one and one can only hope that is resonates for a long time and creates a change in conventional thoughts that the country is often associated with. It’s safe to say that ‘Dangal’ has the potential of being the most successful film of Aamir’s in his entire career. The box office figures will show this for sure!
BizAsiaLive.com rating: 4.5/5