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‘Dangal’ Movie Review: Bollywood Saved the Best of 2016 for Last

‘Dangal’ is as much about the sport as much as it is about the “daav-pech” of relationships.

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You may no longer believe in Santa Claus, but there is still good reason to believe in Aamir Khan.

With Dangal, Aamir plays Santa and brings us movie buffs a gift that is the perfect mix of drama, emotion, adrenaline and heart.

The Nitesh Tiwari-directorial tells the story of Mahavir Singh Phogat, a national-level wrestling champion, who overcomes failure and channels his fierce ambition into training his daughters to win accolades in the sport.

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Phogat and his daughters have a thorny path ahead of them. The battle lines are clearly drawn, between a society that ridicules Phogat for letting his daughters play a “manly” sport, and a father’s conviction and belief in the abilities of his children.

And this is where the beauty of Dangal lies - the film is as much about the sport and its skilled sportspersons as much as it is about the “daav-pech” of relationships and emotions. Dangal would not have been half the film that it is, had it not been for the magical performances.

Aamir has garnered a reputation for being an actor who brings credibility and sincerity to any project that he associates himself with. And once again, he gives it his all, as he bravely surrenders to the character of Mahavir Singh Phogat without letting his star “aura” get in the way of a delectable, realistic portrayal.

Aamir’s physical transformation is well-documented, as we see him go from a young and lean wrestler who decimates his opponents, to a stout, middle-aged man who has to wrestle with his own emotions in order to balance his tough taskmaster act with the loving father that he is.

Debutants Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra, who play Geeta and Babita Phogat, deliver stunning performances. The authentically choreographed wrestling sequences allow viewers to undertake an immersive journey into the lives of these two incredible women, who defy all odds to attain their goals.

Zaira Hasim and Suhani Bhatnagar, who play the young Geeta and Babita respectively, are impeccable and hold the fort for the major part of the first-half – without ever letting the film’s 160-minute runtime get to us.

Sakshi Tanwar, the gifted actress who plays their mother, manages to hold her own even with our elf-eared Aamir in the same frame. From her authentic Haryanvi accent to the ease with which she dials up the emotional quotient, it is refreshing to see her outside of the daily soap “diya jalao-diya bujhao” circus.

Dangal has a clear message: if given a chance and kept away from the “chulha-chawka” routine, women can be as good as, if not better than, men in any field of their choice.

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To think of Dangal as Sultan 2.0 just because both films deal with the same sport would be like assuming that Virat Kohli and Kunal Kohli are brothers, simply because they share a surname.

Dangal may not be entirely free of mainstream contrivances, but these are few and easy to forgive. The film’s terrific ensemble cast (which includes the delightful Girish Kulkarni and the earnest Aparshakti Khurana) and the way the screenplay and music melt into each other only serve to add to its appeal.

Bollywood did indeed save its best for the very end. Bid farewell to 2016 on a good note with Dangal, which does a fabulous job of showcasing an inspiring story that is definitely worth telling. I give it 4.5 QUINTS out of 5.

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