Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Cast: Aamir Khan, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Sakshi Tanwar, Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar
Here's a fairly simple formula to actor-producer Aamir Khan's script sense, which might interest some, since he's green-lit remarkably few scripts in his 25 odd-year-long career. All that Aamir wants to know, he told us once, while reading/listening to a script is: what happens next. If that question uniformly pops up in his head while going through a story (besides other factors, I'm sure), he's on.
Why am I mentioning this? Because quite frankly, if you've seen the trailer of 'Dangal', you'll know exactly all that is going to happen in this film. On the face of it, it's a movie about female empowerment. The fact that it is set in rural Haryana (the part of India lowest on most female-centric indices, and I hope people watch it there), makes the subject all the more rich, and timely. That's all.
There are two (phenomenally cast) young girls, being trained in wrestling by a father-cum-coach, who's determined to go for gold at the international level. Nothing less would do.
A doggedly disciplinarian coach, and under him, an underdog talent, is a genre of its own, you know. It's called a 'sports film'. God knows how many such have we seen in the past — let alone Hollywood, even here, and this year ('Saala Khadoos'). This film is based on a fully 'Googleable' story of Mahavir Phogat and his daughters, Geeta and Babita, who he trained against all odds, and despite the government, to make a name for their country.
So, no, really, what happens next? Well, let me tell you what happens next: Enough that your eyes hardly ever waver from the screen for 160 minutes, while you mildly laugh, go teary eyed, and on occasion even bite your nails, thoroughly enthralled as much by the intricacies of wrestling as a sport — that this film so wonderfully introduces us to — as some key moments, turning points, and inspired performances both by the girls (when they're kids, and when they grow up), and the old father, that's Aamir, wholly controlling the viewer's emotions in a dark hall, like a consummate puppeteer.
We've been through a similar seesaw of emotions in Aamir's 'Taare Zameen Par' (2007). This is to take away nothing from the relatively lesser known director, Nitesh Tiwari, who made his debut co-directing 'Chillar Party' (2011), with Vikas Bahl. Bahl went on to make 'Queen' and 'Shaandaar'. Tiwariji did 'Bhootnath Returns'.
This is his third film. What else have you seen around it? A making-of-video that's been doing the rounds online, even before its release, which is a smart move. Because the actors themselves training to look and feel like world-class athletes subtly and beautifully mirrors the story of Geeta and Babita themselves, moving up notch by notch, from a village akhara to synthetic mats in global arenas. At no moment do you feel that Fatima Sana Shaikh (Geeta) and Sanya Malhotra (Babita) aren't professional wrestlers, or that they are not Haryanvi.
Towering over them is the quiet, stern, but hardly foul-mouthed for a Haryanvi father, Mahavir — that model 'man of the house' from a couple of generations ago, and perhaps valid in villages even now. During the film, he ages about 30 years in a timeline of about 15, which is again true for rural menfolk. This rotund, pot-bellied, subtly expressive Aamir brings the same earnestness to this film as he does to potboilers like 'Dhoom 3' or 'Ghajini'.
He is, as he's been appearing during Christmas for more than a few years now, the annual Santa Claus spreading cheer among Indian audiences, enticing you to enjoy a fine bout at the dangal, this time, and a wholly enjoyable ride in the theatre, yet again. Don't think I need to say more. You won't miss this anyway.
Watch 'Dangal' trailer