Dangal Beats A Line Of Regressive Thinking By Introducing Another

Posted by Zulfikar Manto
December 29, 2016

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The recent movie, Dangal starring Amir Khan takes us through the story of two girls, Gita and Babita, born in a remote village of Haryana, who are trained to be international wrestlers by their father. The movie should definitely inspire a lot of families to take care of their daughters just like their sons. It would inspire a lot of women to do what they want to do, even if the society perceives it as a masculine task. Unfortunately the movie breaks these regressive lines of thought at the cost of introducing some other.

Gene pool superiority
While Gita and Babita grow up to be international wrestlers, their ‘close cousin’ Omkar does not. The reason too is clearly mentioned in the movie. Despite getting the same training and facilities as the two girls and despite being older and stronger initially, Omkar did not have wrestling in his blood.

It’s okay beating boys
In the initial part of the movie where Mahavir Singh asks his daughters how they beat the boys, the girls show him the exactly how they did it by beating up Omkar the same way. Here’s an innocent boy who was being beaten up by his cousins for no reason and this is a comic scene! We saw a similar theme in Tanu weds Manu Returns, where the comic scenes involved a strong Haryanvi woman beating up men. Bollywood seems to have established that violence is okay as long as it is inflicted by women on men

Parents are the supreme coaches
This was the part that I found very unnatural. The movie shows that Gita’s coach was not negligent, but malicious, who trained contrary to her natural game. The movie goes on to show how the coach was incompetent and Mahavir, who had given up wrestling 20 years ago was the one whose efforts, legitimate or illegitimate, led to Gita getting properly trained for her international competition. The relationship of an athlete with their coach has to be of trust and this seems to have been condemned through this movie.

To achieve your goal, you must give up on all recreation
In the movie, once Gita goes to NSA, she grows her hair, starts watching movies, and eats gol gappas once in a while, much to the dislike of her father. Clearly this was gross negligence, which cost Gita an international game. The message was not old; ever since I started preparing for JEE, I have been constantly told stories of older cousins who could not qualify because they had started playing video games once in a while.

The end can justify the means
Although Gita and Babita did seem to have a natural talent for wrestling, they never consented for the hard training they underwent. The forced training, strict diet and later the forceful haircut was cruel at the very least. I felt strangely uncomfortable when Mahavir says that he can either be a good coach or a good father. The conversation that the girls had with the child bride should better have happened with their father. The movie reinforced the Indian tenet of ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’.

Surrendering to the saffron brigade
The malicious campaign of the Sangh to malign Amir Khan for his comments on intolerance in India seem to have hit Amir really hard. In order to compensate for those, and be in their good books probably, the movie not just played the whole national anthem but also chanted Bharat Mata ki jai, something that wasn’t really needed by the screenplay.

The movie has a dominant feminist theme and is executed fairly well. The attention to detail to portray a village in Haryana is remarkable. However, when you start calling a movie progressive, the bar for comparison is definitely higher and Dangal probably did leave enough slack to not qualify for that.

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