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Dangal: Great motivational film for rural youth

Mahavir’s exemplary courage to stand up absolutely alone in rural India and swim against the socio cultural current of Haryana countryside is commendable and particularly praiseworthy when perceived in all pervading power of khap panchyat’s dictatorial diktats on dress code ,conjugality ,commensality ,co-habitation and co-educational classes etc. Understandably, the film , for obvious commercial and controversial causing concerns, does not directly depict upon Mahavir’s confrontation with local Panchayat but one is sure of its occurrence when one calculates the time context of the film by inference or the subject, writes Sushil Kumar, a senior IAS officer, who is also a film analyst and a sports enthusiast.

The film also hintsat how a small town too is mirroring the social process of disappearing joint families and hearths much like in bigger towns( India to be 40% urban by 2050). Of course, the ‘taus’ and ‘chachas’ still live in close proximity , as shown in Dangal , though the hopes and aspirations of Mahavir’s nuclear family are similar to big towns and are indicative of integrative powers of market driven mass economy.

The film has some stinging comments on how the national and States’ Sports Associations function in the country. One can recall the Sports Ministry’s earlier proposal to overhaul the system run on patronage and quid pro quo by non sports background gerontocracy. One only needs to see the judgment pronounced by Supreme Court this week on removing Anurag Thakur from the BCCI and struggles of the sports lovers to absorb shocking news of new Hall of Famers (Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Chauthala). in the Olympic Association . Seems the reel life is truly reflecting reality of real life like never before ; we can’t be complaining about cinema not being real and specially when we see cine realism of sports film like Dangal , Mary Kom, Paan Singh Tomar and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag !

The film doesn’t comment about the sports achievements of the coach but leaves no doubt about his bureaucratic background while showing his body profile where only muscle ever exercised seem to be facial and vocal chords. Due to film’s disclaimer , one can’t be sure about the veracity of the stadium scene where Mahavir is confined by machinations of the coach ; but if true, then it is metamorphic about the bureaucratic-politico control of sports bodies. Please recall what Jwala Gutta said about the chief of Badminton Association of India after winning a Commonwealth medal or what Kirti Azad said about the DDCA’s functioning or what fate befell the Sports Ministry’s attempt to reform approximately forty sports associations/federations through National Sports Development Bill of 2011( was rejected in the Cabinet itself). It is always difficult to break through the vested interests entrenched in sports administration worldwide, not only India. Please recall the protracted dispute between international chess bodies ( FIDE and PCA) that staged parallel world championships till Vishy Anand finally became a common champion or the disputes between WBC ,IBF and WBA till Lennox Lewis became the undisputed heavyweight championship in 2001 or the power struggle within FIFA which led to the sacking of Sepp Blatter.

Insititution building as such is a long drawn and difficult process as democratic thinking and practices takes few hundred years to take strong roots. Don’t forget Magna Carta’s fundamental principle mandating equal importance of individual rights vis a vis the State took nearly a millennium to take roots ; and how just 150 years ago , the big Apple was infested by men, as maggots , murdering at will ,where Bill the butcher was butchering everyone who looked questioningly into his one eye – as depicted in the film Gangs of New York.

It is great motivational film for the rural youth to seriously strive to seek name , fame and fortune through sports – similar to what has been done by likes of Sushil Kumar, Vijender Singh, Yogeshwar Dutt and Sakshi Mallik in Haryana -specially when unemployment is on upswing and absorption in traditional agriculture is declining rapidly , reducing returns on investment to negative, if costs of farmer’s own labour is added. This reason explains the hunger for success in sports specially in strivings of rural or semi-urban youth ,as witnessed in their breaking barriers to achieve stupendous success in cricket teams of IPL ODI and Tests .Films like M.S.Dhoni , Azhar and Iqbal ( though fictional ) depict these stories.

The traditional games like Kabbadi and wrestling are showing resurgence due to identification and popularity with rural populaces , promising higher TRPs.No wonder we have international competitions beamed live of men and women kabaddi.

The scenes about entire village population’s advice on how to have a baby boy is hilarious and is realistic ; there exist innumerable beliefs and quack’s quick solutions on this subject , including familiar sights of road side sadhus/salesmen selling aphrodisiacs , magical medicines and tabeejs , surrounded by variety of snakes, skins and solutions in transparent jars. Those who visit Sarvana Bhavan can also see similar advertisements on its entry points . India does have its version of rhinoceros and tiger medicines to make a ‘real’ man out of -well a man ! ; and make more of ..well !!

India’s vegetarianism has long been blamed for poor sports attainments at international levels specially for individual track and field events and successes of PT Usha, Shiny Abraham and others were attributed to high protein diets partaken in Kerala .Dangal also incorporates this aspect when Mahavir incorporates chicken diet in the preparation of the world class wrestlers. It’s well known that Haryana is a land of vegetarian population , particularly the Jats, partaking milk and ghee. Even UP Jats are vegetarians . However, most Jats of Punjab partake of meat as a compulsory accompaniment to spirits. As usual one can’t draw easy conclusions on dietary habits but one knows that even P. Gopichand has included non vegetarian diet as essential component of his tough training regimen.


The director seems confident of his actors and has shot some excellent close ups : Aamir’s intensity and emotions are conveyed through raised /knitted /furrowed eyebrows with crossed arms across his chest; Sakshi’s Tanwar worries are conveyed through facial expressions half concealed with a part of pallu being chewed by lips – a real rural imagery ; facial expressions of both sisters convey their vulnerabilities , ambivalence and incomprehension of incoming instructions and experience of training woes.

The film editing is masterfully executed and helpful in showing story’s dramatic progression- specially in delayed depiction of the link between children’s reluctance to jump into water from the bridge and its connection with crucial command of motivation recalled later in middle of wrestling match. The film is reportedly shot in sync sound and, hence , the nuanced intonations in dialogues heighten the visual emotions for real effect. It seems Aamir prefers sync sound scene shooting as reportedly even Lagaan and Holi were shot similarly.

(The third part of a four-part series)

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