Dangal Review: Was it really the best film of 2016?

Box office records tumble, weak script overlooked


News - India & You

December 29, 2016

/ By / Kolkata

Aamir Khan along with his on screen daughters

Aamir Khan along with his on screen daughters

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.


Fatima Sana Shaikh as Geeta Phogat in a scene from Dangal

Fatima Sana Shaikh as Geeta Phogat in a scene from Dangal

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.

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  1. Avatar Krunal patel says:

    Who the fucking author of this article…you people never gona change or improve…this is surely best of the best movie i hv seen since long…nd you said its just above average…do you know anything about film making or anything…u think u can make better movie then this …then make it…learn to appreciate good things …you looser

    1. Avatar Sudipto Roy says:

      Hi Krunal, Thanks for your opinion.
      You almost answered your own question… Dangal is the best of the movies that ‘you’ have seen since long! I wish you have watched some more!

      1. Avatar ML says:

        That’s the best reply 🙂

  2. Avatar Surbhi Kapila says:

    Movie reviews always have a reflection of the author’s taste and that’s what makes them unique. Reviews spread ideas among readers and not impose them. If a reader can’t stand a new idea or thinking pattern other than his/ her own, too bad as that means blocking knowledge in a way.

  3. Avatar Rajiv Chowdhury says:

    Dangal in a way may not be perfect but if u consider the finesse that bollywood betrays generally,it is definitely top notch…and u have to keep in mind that no matter how much we try to debate, india still is an developing country…that implies we people are also developing…so betterment is what we could wish for..and I think is a step in the right direction..!

    1. Avatar Sudipto Roy says:

      Hi Rajiv,
      Very rightly put!
      As an audience, I loved Dangal but expecting it to be better is not a crime I suppose!
      India also needs to go way ahead in terms of Film Criticism, my friend…

  4. Avatar Film Critic says:

    There are other regional quality movies than Dangal made in India. Few newspapers (Time of India and Hindustan Times) are just hyping to retain Bollywood as number one title.

    1. Avatar Sudipto Roy says:

      Absolutely! Mainstream media should look at the range of organic work being done in regional films in the country and showcase that at par with the already hyped Bollywood! Thanks for your comment!

  5. Avatar Harry says:

    Hi sudipto roy….most of the points you raised as critic are debatable….father was harsh as he was putting the interset of girls into wrestling… When they become professionals and know most of things about wrestling no need to be harsh…as they shown in second half….well not a perfect movie agreed…. But still great movie… We do need critics and i do appreciate your reviews

    1. Avatar Sudipto Roy says:

      Film Criticism in India is still quite infant here in our country. And I would second everyone who says that Dangal is a great movie. I do think so, but best of 2016? I doubt! I hope we could have a debate on that!

  6. Avatar sushil says:

    Ultimately the box office collection matters in terms of good or bad and people knows it best.
    Figures justify everything.

  7. Avatar Citizen kane says:

    After finished watching the movie Dangal,I felt something was missing…. That something which I had experienced after watching 3 idiots or taare zamin par.The feeling of contentment was missing. Things in the movie were happening abruptly with lots of gaps. It like watching lots of clips of a movie. Not much of coherence was there…this article is perhaps the only one who dared to say that it wasn’t really up to the mark…good writing!!

  8. After finished watching the movie Dangal, I felt something was missing…. That something which I had experienced after watching 3 idiots or taare zamin par.The feeling of contentment was missing. Things in the movie were happening abruptly with lots of gaps. It’s like watching lots of clips of a movie. Not much of coherence was there…this article is perhaps the only one who dared to say that it wasn’t really up to the mark…good writing!!

  9. Avatar ML says:

    I found nothing special in the movie.
    Somewhat Sultan, Mary Com, Karate Kid and few more. They mixed them all up, and with the name and fame of Amir Khan and obviously with paid reviews it is grossing high.

    Few people are so crazy over brands that they never think of quality.

  10. Avatar Pritam ghatak says:

    Well I read it twice and I have to say I disagree with most of the points that you have penned down. Firstly sports demands tremendous amount of discipline and sacrifice. So what doesn’t seems to be a distraction to an average person can be a major fuck up for a sportsman. Secondly though it was a cliched approach still regardless of what happened in reality, the character of national coach seems justified. He is a glass full of ego which was shaken up by aamir in the scene where he asked the coach to take care of geeta. The character could never let go that incident off his mind till the end of the film. Moreover this aspect of the character plays a pivotal role in later part of the movie to take father daughter bonding to a different level. Overall I was very happy with the film. Maybe my expectations were low. Or may be it was good to see that feminism means individual quality and achievement. Not just a female character who smokes, drinks, have multiple boyfriends or a bad break up and thats it which has been overdone over the last couple of years. It was also fresh to see feminism stem out of patriarchy.

    1. Avatar Sudipto Roy says:

      Thanks Pritam for that lucid yet very comprehensive comment. As a reviewer, I just tried to question the quality of choice that the India audience succumbs to. Whether it is celebrity reviews or the box office reports, they don’t seem to have an opinion of their own. That’s very regressive and I personally loved the film and still feel that it could have been better!
      I don’t subscribe to over-dramatic sequences just to satiate the taste of our audience but I do respect your opinion as well.

  11. Avatar Ranganathan Madhavan says:

    Sudipto, you mad and over-read Bengali, learn to go along with ‘aam’ (common) India. Dangal was and will remain the best of 2016.

  12. Avatar Anoop says:

    Dangal could be better, but then it wouldn’t be seen by so many people. I felt it was overdramatic, clichéd and average in terms of editing and background score. There were moments in the film that felt stretched, the coach and final two opponents were caricatured to almost “Sultan” level. But, the casting was so good, and the technical details were so well captured, I have never ever seen a Hollywood movie to be so meticulous in portraying such details. May be no other movie. That, the movie respected the technical details but included Bollywood masala to make so much detail and information palatable is a lesson in conveying entertainment and educating at the same time. The film really respected the sport it was based on. But to be fair, zaira wasim and Fatima sana sheikh never even once looked like wrestlers but still were looking perfect when wrestling. This was very unconvincing for me.

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