‘Dangal’ Trailer Looks Kickass, But More Female Voices Would Have Been Nice

Posted on October 20, 2016 in Media, Sexism And Patriarchy

By Rohini Banerjee:

“Are our daughters any less than sons?” Aamir Khan’s character poignantly remarks in the trailer of “Dangal”, his latest film, and makes an important and much-needed point.

The trailer, which dropped earlier today, delves into the real life story of how wrestler Mahavir Phogat trained his two daughters (Geeta and Babita Phogat) to become gold medalists, and it is all kinds of inspiring. Set in Haryana, a state where son preference and resulting female foeticide is alarmingly rampant, this is a story of two young women going against patriarchal odds and sweating it out in a male-dominated sport. It’s heartening to see the determination of the two young girls (played by actors Zaira Waseem and Suhani Bhatnagar), and see them kick some major ass. The hurdles that they have to cross in the process are also touched upon, which makes this film seem like an even more significant one in the context of how deep internalised misogyny is in India.

However, despite its many merits and inspiring montages, there are certain things shown in the trailer that does make one uncomfortable. Despite the story being about the struggles of the two female athletes, the dominant narrative voice is that of their father (and coach). This isn’t essentially a bad thing considering how progressive the father seems, but Bollywood has had an unpleasant history of presenting women’s issues and female struggles by making men the mouthpiece, and for a change, some female voices would be nice. In real life, women often don’t get to speak up for themselves due to internalised misogyny, which is precisely why we need to see such examples on screen.

Other than that, the girls (and especially their physical strength) are also constantly compared with men. Take that statement by Aamir’s character that I quoted earlier, for example. Why is the worth of the girls, their competence as wrestlers and fighters always measured against male worth and male strength? Is that ultimately enforcing the same old messed up stereotype that women can be physically strong only when they reject their femininity and become more manly? It’s too early to jump to conclusions since this is just the trailer and not the entire film, but “Dangal” is something definitely worth watching out for, especially to see how it explores these questions about gender.