Aamir Khan's Dangal is Indian cinema's triumph; a masterfully crafted biopic that makes an emotional connection, writes Deepa Gauri
It could be coincidental that Dangal co-produced by actor Aamir Khan with Walt Disney Pictures, is an ode to those famous words of Disney: "When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable."
Belief is what drives the film, and its protagonists. A diehard belief that one can rise above one's limitations, a belief that one can indeed achieve dreams - even if it takes a generation, whizzing by your disappointments and setbacks.
While the essence of the biopic, inspired by the life of wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and his daughters, is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, the strength of the film lies in its searing intensity. As they say about making stars from words, here is a film that makes a beacon from scenes - all so masterly strung together like a perfect bead.
The pace of Dangal, therefore, is much like the life of the ordinary. It is languid, gaining speed only when the people enter the realm of extraordinary. And the pivot of the narrative, no doubt, is Aamir Khan, who puts in such an earnest and inspired performance that will go down in the history of Indian cinema as one of the finest.
Never once do you see Aamir Khan, the star; here is an actor transforming, metamorphosing, body, soul and spirit into another man. Keeping a tight rein of the proceedings, director Nitesh Tiwari never lets the film get into the melodrama territory, instead lending a touch of humour - the real humour that life often throws at you in all its innocence.
As a biopic Dangal goes way above all the rest that we saw in Bollywood. And it is the real Sultan - not a tale that aims to entertain but a film that seeks to influence.
Setting in the scene in the first few minutes about Mahavir and his disappointment at not having been able to pursue wrestling as his vocation and life, the film breezes through the next phase in his life: The birth of his daughters (while he wanted a son to fulfil his dream).
If the film appears patriarchal, it is because that is how our society is. And herein also lies the mastery of the script; in a nation where female infanticide and all associated woes still make headlines, never once does the film or its protagonist patronise, preach or play to the gallery.
Once Dangal shifts to how Mahavir transforms his two girls - Geeta (Fatima Sana Shaikh/ Zaira Wasim) and Babita (Sanya Malhotra/ Suhani Bhatnagar) into true champions, you just go with the flow, watching the disappointments, frustrations, joys and triumphs with awe. For a film narrative, it is only obvious you need an antagonist - and here the system, in its own quirky way, serves the purpose. Only the anti-climax of the film appears a trifle filmy.
Dangal gives you more than the life of Mahavir, Geeta and Babita; it presents a compelling portrait of India's villages; it takes you through a journey into the minds of the real Indians.
With excellent photography and one of Pritam's best music compositions, Dangal shines with its power-packed performances with Aamir Khan giving every actor the space to be. An exceptional triumph for Indian cinema, Dangal gives us reason enough to believe in films. What a great way to close 2016!
Directed by Nitesh Tiwari
Starring: Aamir Khan, Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra
Now playing at theatres in the UAE