This is how you make a sports movie.
After Sultan, this is the second time this year one could see on the big screen some great akhada action. One critical area where Dangal nudges Sultan is its script which focuses not only on a crescendo-ending but also throws light on the sorry state of sports in the country.
Dangal doesn’t just tiptoe around the shambles that the Indian sports is in today by making passing references. But it delves well into the practical issues faced by many sports persons as they rise to many challenges on their way to the national and the international arenas.
The wrestling scenes throughout the movie are gripping. Even if they are about daily training for the young girls (Geeta Phogat and sister Babita Kumari), the grappling shown on screen appears too real and exciting. After a long time, perhaps after Lagaan and Chak De! India, I felt an adrenaline rush while watching an Indian sports movie.
This is how you make the audience root for the protagonists in a movie.
In a very poignant scene towards the climax wherein Mahavir Singh Phogat (played by Aamir Khan) tells elder daughter, Geeta, ahead of her final match in the Commonwealth Games that her real opponent the next day would be the conservatives in the society who for long have restricted girls and women in stereotypical silos. This is where we realise who in the movie are the real protagonist and the antagonist.
My favourite scene is towards the climax where they play the national anthem as Geeta wins the Commonwealth gold. My wife took me by surprise as she stood up in reverence to the anthem. It is a moving scene for many reasons. Phogat, locked up in a room by an official, can’t go and guide his daughter from the side-lines in the final match, something he successfully does throughout the tournament. He is dying to know how well Gita is playing and if she has won. The father-cum-coach gets his answers as Jana gana mana is played in the arena. The song also gives answers to his longstanding question that if he can ever ensure a gold medal for India.
A Supreme Court ruling a few weeks earlier had triggered much debate over people standing in the cinema halls for the national anthem before the movie starts. Today, I couldn’t help myself like so many passionate others in the audience but stand during the movie.
This is how you make people stand for the national anthem.