Monday, December 26, 2016

Dangal - Refreshing And Exhilarating!

Profound wisdom emanates from simpler moments of life, when one halts for a moment and changes perspective. So says a 14-year old bride to the disgruntled daughters of Mahavir Singh Phogat. "Your father at least takes an interest in you. He accepts your existence and is striving to give your life a shape worthy enough of dignity."

That is enough to awaken in the daughters a renewed zeal to give in to the drill and agonizingly disciplined regime their father has set for them. 

Indian Cinema needed this 'Dangal' for so many reasons!
We will digress for a while but well, I am inundated with so many...So many thoughts that each reason can make a blog post.

The Indian male protagonist is so self-centred to date that very rarely we see him, allowing himself to look anything less than perfect. He always wants to be in command and if possible every frame right till the end. His real age notwithstanding, he is an epitome of eternal youth. He has to romance beauties half his age. He has to win and if he cannot he will use his progeny to break his bones to near death (Apne, remember?)
There are long drawn guilt trips for the poor unsuspecting progeny and ultimately a grander end. 

Cut to Dangal

We have a National Wrestling Champion, mired in financial difficulties living with a regret filled silence. Regret of not able to continue his wrestling journey and not getting a gold at an international level. His desire, "my son will continue my legacy!", squashed as he had four girls. 

There are no loud complaints and neither ignoring his girls. In fact he says "I love them but they cannot fulfill my wish."  A silent acceptance of fate as he puts away all his medals. Did I forget to tell you, it was, and is Aamir Khan?

Ohhh... Not intentional but just to make that point. He has clean changed the definition of what a mainstream 'hero' is. The silent, pigheaded, doggedly determined father who let criticism simply go unaffected. I had to remind myself, it is Aamir Khan who was Mahavir Singh Phogat

Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan ought to actually take a leaf out of his book and well, just take a cue!

Aamir Khan as Mahavir Singh Phogat is so adorable in this big paunch and haryaanvi dialect. He did not feel the need to add a scene to educate the mass on procreation behind the curtains kinda thing. There is a very simple equation with his wife, Daya Kaur played by Sakshi Tanwar, "I don't understand your decisions but..."  and he requests "Ek saal de de munne...

No barbaric abuse or dogged domination. A fair relationship that has accepted a gender given societal roles. 

Wife obeys, husband decides.
Aamir dominates the screen as the father with an ambition... Father with a Vision... Father with an iron hand at discipline... Father who is willing to change perspectives... I too wish to say "Kaash ye mere Pappa hote...

Another reason why Indian Cinema needed this Dangal 
It is a Dangal of sorts for perspective of the girl & boy paradigms. What they can or cannot do! What we think 'they can or cannot do'!  Again from deeper disappointment and little moments, a mindset changes in a father who is living in a very orthodox, rural set up. 

A man who goes about declaring "Pehelwaani khoon me hoti hai..." is willing to do a gleeful roundabout on his pehelwaan  girls. 

He is still in his stereotype zone when he hits his nephew for hitting boys when few mangled kids stand in complaint. The glee on his face when he asks his girls, "Kaise maara?" is priceless. That is the moment of a mindset change that creates history. A perspective that begins questioning "A Gold medal can be brought by Girls, too!"  A perspective which erodes each societal norm one by one at the razor of 'what is possible"  "what is achievable"  A perspective that holds out hope to fulfill a long held dream.

 Those moments are now priceless for me. I wish my parents would have had a chat of this nature... When I stood on the threshold of adulthood and fought to continue studies post graduation. I did have my way but not without arguments and heartache. Reason: "A Groom that educated will be scarce." Well... 

This moment when the father decides to enroll his girls in his stricter course in wrestling, they have no clue... But the girl in me so rejoiced at the turnabout of a Dad to prepare his girls for a robust future with full faith that they can. They were his girls. 

'Pehelwaani' unke khoon me se!! Indeed. 

Steadfastly he began dealing with every and any impediment cited by his wife or girls... Even if to sometimes just escape. The perspective shift is so apparent in every scene that shreds misogyny to pieces. Sometimes the reasons made into excuses by the very same girls who would cry foul when growing up and asking for liberation.

"We cannot run in salwaar kameez!" it is not only the rant of those two girls but also so many in the nation. 

He silently asks his nephew's clothes and hands over to his wife to alter them to suit the girls. Wife, though aghast and confused does as bid. 

No prolonged arguments or heavy duty dialogues. 

"Our hair become filthy and we are facing trouble!" So they complain... 

So he decides, "Chop 'em off!" much to the chagrin and embarrassment of the girls who meant it as an excuse.

For the determined and ambition consumed father, it was... 

Whatever comes in the way of them focusing, will be simply terminated!
The very tenets of misogyny questioned in an eloquent way.
Should the raiment or Curls determine someone's worth or do we get overly attached to these external standards and judgments? 

Remove their strict adherence, strip the long held beliefs and ask "How are then girls or boys any different in spirit?

I have seen Mary Kom and Saala Khadoos. What left a bitter taste was the rough edge to the coaching highlights.
In pointing out the hard work, there was a tendency to overdo and dramatize to the point of making it sound unrealistic. Then it made one feel, only those who are made of steel or a different material may be capable. Not me or you or my children or yours. 

Indian Cinema needs Dangal to Demonstrate how from scratch, a sportsperson is molded out of sheer diligence and vision.

The girls in question did not even know for what were they being trained! 

Another endearing aspect of this pigheaded dad was his inability to get into long drawn educational or preachy monologues. Simply "This needs to be done!" , "This needs to be done this way..."

This is the obstacle... We'll get rid of it or rise above it.. Making the girls sing "Sehat ke liye Baapu Haanikarak he...
The "Paanch baje taiyaar rehna!" coming as a warning knell on the Girls. 

To fight he brings in his nephew in front of his girls...who are hell bent on sabotaging his every efforts. The import of their father's vision plain escapes these simpletons. 

Awareness dawns again in the most misogynistic situation of a child marriage. The very marriage ceremony of their friend they so happily scamper to. Against their father's wishes, they romp and rave oblivious of the hurt, despair & disappointment so vividly written on the bride's face.

 The girls complains finds a counter argument in the bride to be. "I so wish he was my father, he acknowledges your existence atleast, thinks about you. Else for a father a girl is only a burden to be married at the earliest." 

Both the girls find their existential purpose in that vulnerable moment of despair from the girl who knows her identity is off to be vanquished and she will be a machine henceforth to churn out kids and run the household impeccably...No more... 

That is the Dangal adorable quotient of a mindset shift... From one Girl to another Girl. My Destiny could be different if there was a father like yours "Value it!

Value they did...Surrendering now to the mold and discipline of their father's regime head on. 

Father too ups the challenge by getting them to compete with males. An unheard of faith. A faith of a Father nevertheless!
He eggs them on to join a tournament where they are underweight... Encourages in every round. No word of criticism ever uttered even if a round is lost. Only wisdom accrued over the years.

"She is overcoming the fear." He empathizes with their woes and enters quietly to soothe their aching muscles. It is the 'Dangal' of 'Guru' who has to push them further and 'Father'  who feels their pain. 

It is his faith and steady encouragement that brought them so far. A lesson his elder one learns the hard way. The later part of the movie sees the 'Dangal' of will, technique and discipline. It also raises question on our Sports Department system which lacks the inimitable will and zeal for the players they train. 

"Get me medals!", who gets it, does not matter? 

You are training 'humans' for God's sake! 

When a player loses a round, instead of boosting up their morale, there is derision and deprecation. 

No wonder India loses out on 'winners' zone! When coaches have no faith, where will the players borrow it from?
That is succinctly displayed in the short zone when the daughter moves to NSA for international training and is introduced to temptations. 

The Growing of hair or using nail paints or eating golgappa hitherto forbidden may bring in a sense of liberation but took away the steely edge from her disposition that was carefully inculcated by a Father who had been through the rigour and knew what it entailed. 

She came in the village with new know-how and dueled with her mentor to defeat him. Maybe it was her rebellious angst all those years...but the younger daughter echoes "He lost out of weakness not technique..."  so began the distance and downfall of Geeta (played by Fatima Sana Shaikh) who lost all international tournaments and Babita (played by Sanya Malhotra) who won her national championship. 

The difference being the rock solid force by her side. He knew their strengths and built on it. The coach focused on Geeta's weaknesses and destroyed her will. Their Father's gift was the fiery steely determination and the steadfast support which the elder Geeta realised as her laissez-faire liberated attitude faced turmoil soon. A debate may arise on liberation and discipline. A Dangal on was the father correct in instilling or imposing his ways on his unsuspecting daughters to meet his ambitious goals. His tender girls sure toughened up and created History for the nation! Does the end justify the means? 

All I would add is when you do not have your own dreams, might as well embrace another one's who directs and channelizes the Persona into someone worthwhile to Reckon with. He did make them a force to look up to! So an angry Geeta leaves her father 's stringent domain to enjoy her liberated one, to learn a valuable lesson. When we chart out on special journeys, the vision of the mentor counts. He had not cut their curls out of some male dominance. It was a well planned construct to keep their obstacles at bay and aid their work out progress. 

Series of defeats and Babita's presence binds the gap and gets the father to again take up six month old coaching of his girl. He finds ways to review her performance and restore her confidence. A confidence echoed by the younger sister "I do not know the girl who lost. I know the girl who fought boys and emerged a winner. She was underweight and yet pounded her opponents!"  In that depressed moment comes the realization of what their father's presence entailed. A confidence ingrained by the father in her Girl, who knows not to accept defeat or defect casually. Defeat needed ruthless review and more practice. Defects and lack to be improvised. 

If they cannot be accepted in the akhaada, he makes one...!
If he cannot get a leave, he leaves his job...! Again deeply entrenched misogyny spelled out loud and clear in the derisive words of the employer "If it was your daughter's wedding I would consider... For Wrestling practice, no way!"  

So progressive our society is! So considerate! Yes read deep sarcasm! 

He needs funds to make a mat for their practice, but is the sports personnel willing to forward the funds? For Girls wrestling??? Are you kidding??? 

Again compelling wisdom comes in casual conversations,when his brother asks "Ye mat ke se?
He says "Gadde jese...

Brother quips "Gadde te gadde se na bhaisaab!"

Then forms the improvisation of mats on terrace for practice.
Our winners make history despite the drawbacks... Not in spite... 

The final match was a treat. The Dangal between sure confidence of a father and insecurity of the coach was worth pondering over. It brings questions to fore when father indignantly gives it to the coach "You are asking Sehwag to be Dravid..." Instead of her strengths, you are looking elsewhere  His tearful declaration to the panel is "I have dreamed of my daughters getting a Gold for the country." is so heart rending. 

This is Aamir Khan... I do forget to mention him as he was all of that Haryaanvi jat for me for those two odd hours. He was graceful to not be in the climax scene and give it to the young talent to carry it off. The Culmination of his training of all years. 

Neither did Shahrukh Khan in Chak De allow that nor R Madhavan in Saala Khadoos. The Mary Kom angle of the child's surgery was over stretched. 

Nasty coach gets the dad locked who waits helplessly after initial attempts. 

But he is with her in spirit...With his words. Look into the eyes of the opponent...Always look for their weak moments...Rainbow loop... Which she used to combat and win the tournament. 

Here he knows of the victorious moment by the Anthem being played. 

I did not want this movie to end. It had to! IN THAT CASE I will have to see it at least five to six times to 

*Catch the Haryaanvi dialect and interactions of daughter and father.

The younger girls were so so endearing in their bewilderment, in their innocent rebellions! 

*Watch the supporting cousin who begins with false sense of male supremacy but resignedly and good naturedly accepts that 'he is the Good luck'  factor. 

*Catch the super exciting matches of the girls, 
Geeta and Babita who worked hard to achieve their picture perfect toned bodies to reflect embodiment of athletic refinement. Both the girls have stupendously hijacked the Canvas of Dangal to bring alive a possibility. A role model for this Generation to emulate. One life we have to hone it and honor it. The ends justify the means I guess. 

*See Aamir Khan. Tell myself this transformed man is indeed the Aamir of Andaaz Apna Apna or Hum Hai Raahi Pyaar Ke...

He once sang "Papa kehte the bada naam karega, beta humaara aisa kaam karega."  

He truly has done 'aisa kaam' to  be proud of and he himself portrayed the Papa...Who made it possible to change the lyrics a bit "Beti humaari esa naam karegi.
Kudos to a Movie that might go on to become a classic for us like his 'Taare Zameen Par' and '3 Idiots'.

A grounded effort par Excellence...He was not making a Documentary for God's Sake!  (for all those who feel criticizing him is a mandatory need for their evolution) 

INDIAN CINEMA NEEDED DANGAL... for so many reasons and more... We need more of it... 

For Indian movies should move out of thinking only domestic violence and marital abuse and rapes are maladies that women go through! 

Indian movies must stop thinking that a woman is attractive only when she sways her hips in less clothing...

Indian movies must stop thinking that a man has to have six pack abs and is needed always to rescue a woman from dire circumstances in the form of a father or husband. 

Indian movies must stop thinking giving up career for a man is the ultimate sacrifice and aim of a woman. 

Indian movies must believe mature stories can be told of Father's faith...
Daughter's striving and bringing home glory.
Indian movies must believe that stereotype does not have to be nurtured but challenged...Gently, silently, effectively and eloquently... Without tons of drama! 

The writer deserves a bow... the Director a Salute!... And Aamir Khan a squealing bear hug! 

Too old to say "Kaash vo mere pappa hote!"  but a cute father he portrayed. For those two hours I lived a different life and shall want to soak in again... Another five times perhaps...

Cast and Crew of 'Dangal' you are permanently etched and inscribed into my psyche! Love and loads and loads of it!

-Sonnal Pardiwala

No comments:

Post a Comment