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Dangal: Great film for history and film schools

Aamir’s cine portrayal of Mahavir Phogat over two decades, with matching physical progression to boot, is indeed of world class category and will put him in a pantheon of cine gods who came down to depict such drama with distinction; it’s so good that it’s difficult to differentiate between the character and the actor and is surely going to win laurels for him in film fraternity and history, writes Sushil Kumar, a senior IAS officer, who is also a film analyst and a sports enthusiast.

His domineering diktats to girls , conveyed in telegraphic language and stares , is great as it gives realistic feel of hard taskmaster focussed on present process with clear goals in mind. The only time his personality melts ( also conveyed through voiceover) is when he utters just one word (shaabash) on his girl getting the gold .The punishing process of a stern parent does create a connection with viewers and cause sentiments to soar but audience understands that scaling the summit comes only after tortuous training and testing ( also shown in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Chak de, Paan Singh Tomar). Everyone realizes that the Guru takes the talent to tops only after trials and tribulations and following mantra of no pain no gain and this connects with most audience. Mahavir Phogat may have surely taken inspiration from countryside’s role definition of a guru being like ‘kumhaar’ -beating from outside with one hand and supporting from inside with another while giving form to clay objects. One can easily recall the role of similar teacher and hard taskmaster played by J.K. Simmons in Oscar winning role in Whiplash ( he received 42 awards worldwide for essaying that role).

Rural lingo should will greatly appeal to the Hindi heartland and word of mouth spreading of Aamir’s excellent performance should do the trick in making Dangal a massive massive hit. The songs are good but not catchy enough to create curiosity and repeat value.

Director admirably adopts the voiceover/commentator as ‘sutradhaar’ to string the sequences and convey meanings so that spectators don’t skip nuanced meanings specially when selected for sheer sentimentality and humour. Or is it that the film has learnt a lesson or two in deploying this method from Aamir’s super hit Lagaan; one can’t say but in both the effects have been rewarded.

Film interior shots in sepia tones beautifully to indicate the poor voltages faced by most villages in the period covered by film and even now so in most parts of India where overload on distribution due to theft continues to plague people who pay for those who don’t. Film’s interior decorators and dress designers deserve special praise for keeping the details nearly perfect specially of objects placed within four walls of Mahavirs’ house as well as the clothes worn by Aamir and Sakshi – which in usual Bollywood flick would have been spotless if white and shimmering if coloured.In fact , the white gamcha and kurta have seem to have been kept deliberately of dusty hues for good effect. The showing of placement of yellowish rough cotton sheet ( known as khesh) in worn out iron trunk ( rusted and roughened l) is typical of rural usage . Geeta’s self preening efforts to beautify through nail polish and growing hair is interestingly conveyed.

The location shooting at villages of Ludhiana is fantastic for giving a realistic feel of rural ambience specially in depiction of typical terrace designs, exposed exterior brick walls , some plastered and rest not, the open flowing drains and usual village roadside grocery shops, butcher shops etc. and also indicates immense inclination for detail by the director . Dilapidated buildings, narrow lanes, side to side construction of match box like houses, irregular shapes and lines do dot the rural habitat designs and landscape. One slight miss though is a computer screen on Aamir’s office table as in that era computers were still to hit that levels and internet had not penetrated precincts of offices as such. Though colour TV had arrived in 1982 but film correctly portrays 1988 wrestling event in black and white as colour TV was still to reach rural hinterland through HPTs and LPTs of Doordarshan.

The showing of traditional training akharas , use of traditional equipments ,festive atmosphere of district level competition and comments about losing a wrestling match to a girl (alluding to male machismo or mardangee of rural hinterland ) lends a realistic flavor.

In final analysis, Dangal indeed portrays a battle of sorts waged by a wrestler to wrest worthy status for women.

Great film – for history and film schools.


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