The recent Bollywood release, Dangal directed by Nitesh Tiwari, hits the hearts and minds of many across not only India, but internationally as well. Starring Aamir Khan, Fatima Sana Shaikh, and Sanya Malhotra, the action film portrays the true tale of Mahavir Singh Phogat and his daughters, Geeta and Babita, in the Indian state of Haryana.
In a village where the stereotypical life of girls is being taught to do household chores until early teenage years and then being married off, only to repeat a similar lifestyle, a former wrestler, Mahavir Singh Phogat, plants a change in the prejudiced minds of fellow townspeople. Mahavir’s dream of raising a gold-medalist wrestler is crushed when his wife only gives birth to four daughters. Events take a turn when his two oldest girls, Geeta and Babita, brutally beat two boys, and Mahavir realizes that his daughters were born with a knack in wrestling. From then on, he harshly trains his daughters to become wrestlers, ignoring the villagers’ derision and the girls’ reluctance.
While watching this movie, I couldn’t help but noticing the effect of the flashbacks in the plot. As the first part of the movie played out, where Mahavir trains his young daughters personally, I soon grasped the fact that every piece of advice the father gave would come in handy later in the movie. During the last match of the movie, the 2010 Commonwealth Finals, Mahavir is deceived into not being present. Although Geeta notices this, she remembers her father’s warning, “I will not always be there to save you. I can only teach you to fight, but you must do the fighting.” This provides a certain boost within her as she tries to advance out of the loss she is in. The ultimate move, a witty swerve and a 5-point flip, all taught by her father, Geeta accomplishes the nearly impossible, and rises to victory, becoming the first Indian wrestler to win gold in international games. The flashbacks to her training as a youngster symbolizes the importance of the unbreakable trust, the father and daughter had in each other, even if it had wavered a bit.
Dangal’s central theme of feminism conspicuously swallowed all other ideas in the storyline. In fact, it was portrayed with such strength that the movie was declared tax-free in 3 states of India to support the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” campaign, which fights for the protection and education of girls in India. Geeta and Babita, when having a conversation with a newly married friend, complain about their father saying, “Who would want such a father?” The friend’s response, “I would. Here, all any girl does is learn to do household chores, and at the age of 14, married off to another man, as a burden lifted off her father’s shoulders. At least, your father cares about you. Everything he is doing, he is doing so you have a future. He takes the derision of the entire town. Why? So you have a future,” imbues a sense of inspiration and motivation in the two girls, and from then on, the girls’ lives lead into their successful wrestling lives. These words conveyed the underestimation of girls; women are equal to men, and should be treated in no other respect.
The Bollywood film refused to differ too greatly, and the inclusion of some drama was expected. However, Dangal, in it’s own rebellious way, had the absence of any romance, which, in my opinion, did not alleviate the beauty of the plot at all. A heart-warming, provocative work, in which one cannot ignore the determination of the actors and their roles, Dangal is well worth the watch.