The Bollywood oeuvre has gifted audiences some mighty movies revolving around real and fictional athletes: “Lagaan”, “Bhaag Milka Bhagg”, “M. S. Dhoni: the Untold Story”, “Chad De! India”, “Sultan”; fascinating studies of teams and individuals who rise from the ashes of obscurity to renown.
“Dangal” directed by Nitesh Tiwari, produced and starring Bollywood’s most innovative, imaginative “Khan” focuses on the true story of Mahavir Singh, a man whose wrestling career was aborted because of lack of funds. Aamir Khan is blazing in the role; his dream of raising a son to win a “gold” medal in wrestling is thwarted by the birth of four daughters. Surprisingly, his two eldest progeny, Geeta and Babita exhibit unusual promise and Mahavir mercilessly trains them through their formative years; grueling, early morning exercises, stringent diet, cruelest of all was the shedding of their lustrous locks. For years they endured the taunts of their classmates and neighbors, derided because “wrestling” was a male-dominated sport. Intransigence prevailed.
Khan’s performance exponentially excels as the years enhance and quantify his daughters eminence in the ring; Fatima Sana Shaikh (Geeta) and Sanya Malhorta (Babita) are superb; imbued, at times torn, between their acuity and devotion to their father.
“Dangal” soars with immaculate writing, cinematography, humming soundtrack; satisfying, titillating for Eastern and Western audiences alike; proving ultimately that you can’t hold a good girl down.