Dangal, one of the much-awaited films of this year has finally hit the theaters. Starring Aamir Khan, this Nitesh Tiwari’s directorial venture chronicles the life of a former wrestler who trains his two daughters in the sport. InUth watched the film with women wrestlers from Delhi’s Chandigram Akhara and it was a great fun.
The wrestlers expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the film. More than Aamir Khan, these young wrestlers were looking forward to watching the sports’ techniques in the film. The eight young wrestlers–Deepa, Sneha, Divya, Chirakshi, Nidhi, Ruchi, Poonam and Akansha, who train themselves daily in the morning at one of the oldest akhadas in the country, expressed hope that Dangal would turn out to be better than Sultan.
As I took the middle seat in the theatre, I was surrounded by four women wrestlers on each side. They started relating to their roots in Haryana as the film showcased Bilali village of Bhiwani district in Haryana. One of these strong women had short hair and she told me that she could identify with Geeta’s character as a child when she also had to face the same trauma after she decided not to grow her hair long for wrestling. The story went ahead and father Phogat started training his little wrestlers. So far, these eight women around me were laughing and completely enjoying the mood of the film. However, this laughter changed into tears when emotions overpowered the narrative.
Coach Mahavir Singh Phogat was fighting with father Mahavir Singh Phogat for his daughters’ bright future. And Poonam told me that she misses her dad as she has to live far away from her family in Delhi to become a professional wrestler. The following scenes set a dip in the aura in theatre as a helpless Aamir Khan could be witnessed on screen. Intermission and the girls just sat still in their seats trying to absorb what they had seen so far. I asked them a few questions and they told me that they were super touched by the emotions in a father-daughter relationship but still waiting to see the techniques of the sport that they own. So far, Aamir had completely convinced them that they were watching an impressive film. In fact, Deepa nudged me and said that Sultan and Dangal can’t be compared despite their roots tracing to the same sport.
Back on track and now several Bollywood cliches started dominating the plot. They didn’t seem to be caring, though. They were busy enjoying the strict wrestling moves the scenes were showing. As Geeta resumed her training, the various intricate details of wrestling were evidently visible on the screen. I started feeling little inferior here because I could see these girls murmuring the names of these moves and I had no clue of what they were talking about in hush voices. They were carrying a different body language and an ecstatic persona. As I moved my neck to see their expressions, it was visible how they were completely into the characters. They cheered for Geeta and clapped as she defeated the opponent on the mat. They were keenly observing the moves Geeta was doing in the ring. I even saw a 10-year-old Sneha trying out some hook movement from her hands as her eyes remained glued on screen.
By this time, they had become the part of the story. They could identify with Geeta’s character and have understood how a woman’s journey towards victory is not just hers. It’s the rest of the women too who have been a victim of gender stereotyping in the society.
As the movie moved to its climax, they geared up to watch it with more intensity now. Poonam rolled up the sleeves of her sports jacket, moved little ahead of her seat and invested some more interest in the game now. The game started, Geeta first qualified for semi-finals and then for finals. Along with these eight sportspersons around me, the rest of the people in the theater too started chanting go Geeta (they were repeating ‘Chal Geeta’ after the onscreen Babita).
Back to back wins for Geeta in the film and the film moved to its climax scene. The big wrestling game and we had a Bollywood twist making it more interesting. Again, the girls didn’t mind the twist as they were keen to observe the techniques Geeta was using to defeat Angelina (her opponent in the final game). As she made her last move, the girls almost skipped their heartbeats, went with the momentum. The hall filled was with the whistling and claps of the audience. Geeta had won gold, and Aamir the hearts of these women. More appreciating was the fact that this time, it was a father Aamir Khan who got all the praises. Tears rolled down from the Renuka and Divya’s eyes as the national anthem played on screen. Everyone in the theater stood up and it was a proud moment. For girls, the film inspired them to stay on the track and put more efforts into wrestling. For me, the film made me feel hopeful about the good cinema Bollywood still has to offer.
We came out discussing the film and you can watch their reaction in the video below. It’s completely unmissable!