It’s long. But that’s how Bollywood operates. In a long and drawn-out way. Only there are times when the story and style of the movie mercifully outshine the length of the movie, and you walk out feeling not-so-bad about the three hours of your life that you’ve just given up and know you will never get back. That’s the kind of movie Dangal is. You walk out feeling a small sense of pride in the realization that perhaps nothing is really impossible; that if you really want something, there’s nothing to stop you from getting it; and that hard work, determination, and the support of family are perhaps the true ingredients for success.
And so, you sit in the dark of the movie theatre, and if you’re a woman who has followed Aamir Khan since his debut some twenty-five years ago, you sit and you smile, and you think of how very talented Aamir truly is, and how well he has aged, and how secure he is not basking in all the limelight, but instead in letting the women in this story shine even brighter than himself. And you take in this sports-drama set in a small village in Haryana, just miles from where you grew up yourself, and you marvel at the odds that had to be truly beaten – by the father of these two young women and the young women themselves – to train to compete and win in one of the most masculine of all sports worldwide, but especially in India: wrestling.
This past year must have certainly been the year of the woman and the girl-child in Bollywood, because this film came soon upon the heels of yet another similarly themed story starring another Khan of Bollywood. But let it not be said that if you’ve seen one sports-drama, you’ve seen them all, because this is not so much a story of women excelling in a man’s sport, nay, a man’s world; this is a story of the power of family that holds up through thick and thin, and refuses to give up despite lacking all the accoutrements one assumes are necessary for success. Things such as education, wealth, connections, and the like.
Kudos to all the other actors who deliver convincing performances. True to form, there’s a lovely soundtrack to the movie as well, and I will affirm that the Haryanvi countryside was familiar and authentically portrayed. There were some sections of the story that I personally found a little troubling, but I shall not draw attention to parenting styles as I have not walked in the shoes of the father whose intense belief in his daughters and even in himself ultimately bring about success and satisfaction beyond belief.
Great job, Aamir, you’ve proved you can play a variety of characters over the years. To the two young women: Brava, and thank you for portraying true grit that will undoubtedly inspire many a young girl in India.