While the massive buzz generated by the Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal keeps the queues growing outside theatres, the Christmas release is far from the best Bollywood has had to offer this year. Though a blockbuster in making, the film is critically mediocre.
The Indian audience has an uncanny affinity to follow a bandwagon even before they could have an opinion of their own. In cinema, even the so-called intellectual audience is entrapped by celebrity reviews and emotion-laced ‘good word of mouth’. While Karan Johar said that Dangal was possibly the best film of 2016, the reviewers after this mega release followed suit. The audience, in a festive mood, subscribed happily, although depicting how infantile they are in terms of exposure to good cinema.
Dangal is surely a very well-made Hindi film if compared to the average films that hit the theatres every other Friday in India. With brilliant performances from the lead actors and a beautiful exhibition of meticulous cinematography, costume design and editing, the screenplay seemed insufferable throughout the film with glaring loopholes. The film definitely served the purpose of reaching a huge audience, but then one should have their adjectives in check before calling it the best of the year.
Aamir Khan’s contribution to the semi-alternative genre, or should we call it the semi-commercial segment, is monumental if we look at his filmography. His multi-layered characters coupled with some hard-working performances have earned him the title of a perfectionist. Well, that is once again commendably underlined in his present production and his appearance as Mahavir Phogat, a wrestler from Haryana who guides his daughters to bring medals for India in major international sports arena, does justice to the story. Khan once again defined method acting as he constructed and deconstructed his body, speech and of course his acting abilities to play a wrestler, a coach and then a father who desperately wants his daughters to fulfill his dream.
The obsession for a boy child and then sparked by the hopes that his two daughters can tax abusers physically, the aging wrestler decides to coach his two daughters as wrestlers. Very high on drama and very low on logic at times, one fails to understand why the National Sports Academy coach was portrayed as a baddie trying to fight his ego when a national team is representing the country in a global sporting event. Even if that was close to the truth in reality, the situations depicted in the film show very bad taste from the writer or may be too short of ideas when it comes to writing a realistic crisis situation.
Sports in India, apart from Cricket, is yet to see the light of the day in terms of infrastructural excellence, but showing a sportsperson’s ambition and passion as a nationalistic sentiment seemed very clichéd to be honest. And, it is also quite hilarious to perceive the dramatic dialogues that added nothing to the story of the film. Where the first half of the film looked very scrupulous about forming the character of an arrogant, stubborn yet understanding coach and father, the second half spoiled the entire build-up by the unnecessary addition of melodrama. Moreover, if you are trying to show a side of women emancipation by showing how good they are as sports persons in a domain generally dominated by men, then you cannot come up with dated thoughts that eating out with friends or checking out a boy on odd occasions are distractions.
Ironically, opposite to what his maiden directorial venture, ‘Taare Zameen Par’ would ideally preach, Dangal could have been a raucous parent pushing his daughters against all the odds to pursue a career that they were never interested in. In a song called ‘Bapu Sehat ke liye tu to hanikarak hai’ (Dad, you are injurious to health) the emotions were probably well-captured although seen from a very sarcastic perspective. There are obviously two sides to it, one being the father who actually chooses to perceive his daughters as potential boys even in a society with completely contrasting practices and the other side is obviously the promotion of sports apart from cricket in India. In a time when Bollywood is getting more or less used to sports biopics, Dangal connected very well with the audience. Trying to portray a different shade of feminism, the performances by Khan and the four girls who played the child and young characters of champion wrestlers Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari were really top-notch.
However, there is still an element of doubt in terms of the right message getting conveyed to the audience, who were more bemused than convinced. The film was not promoting chauvinism or feminism to that extent as well. The true essence of the story could have done without the habitual double standards portrayed in quite a few frames. There were crisis situations which appeared obligatory and any well-watched audience would rather be disappointed with instances such as the conspiracy theory forced on Geeta’s new coach (Girish Kulkarni) in the second half of the film. As a review, this piece will not serve you if you wanted to know the story, but obviously would give you a very clear perspective of how quickly we get satisfied as an audience. Overall, the film will give you a reason to stand when the national anthem of India is played in the film and also a good rush of adrenalin keeping you at the edge of your seat as Geeta competes in the finals of the Commonwealth Games. Again being rhetorical, Dangal was better than the average flicks dished out by Bollywood, but if you ask on the merits of really good cinema, it is not the best. Here’s wishing Indian audience a better appetite for films in 2017 and urging them to be more demanding, rather than following an arbitrary trend. Nevertheless, a heartfelt gratitude to Aamir Khan and the director, Nitesh Tiwari for breaking records at the box office. Maybe, now it’s high time we change our definition of good and great cinema.