Why I Have Nothing to Say on Dangal

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I more than enjoyed Dangal: it was fantastically well-made, uniformly well-acted, and pulled off the difficult feat of making wrestling interesting, even deeply engrossing – that’s creditable, when you consider that most sports movies rely on the built-in appeal of sports that are already popular, with great cultural resonance. Heck, to even make a sports film – i.e. a film in one of the most hackneyed genres – half decent, let alone excellent, is pretty darn impressive.

And yet, when I (more than once, and over a period of a few months) sat down to write a review of Dangal, I found I had nothing to say. Which might make this piece nothing more than a narcissistic exercise in my writer’s block, but I’d like to believe there’s more going on here. The “nothing” is symptomatic of a wider issue, namely that Dangal is a very impressive film – just not a very interesting one. Is that a high bar? Certainly – after all, no-one asks whether Chennai Express, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, and Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge are interesting films (the likes of Karan Johar insist on treating movies like Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil as examples of interesting cinema, but that sort of move testifies not only to Johar’s mediocrity, but to a rather transparent attempt to account for under-performance at the box office) – but not unreasonably so: in terms of commercial cinema, Aamir Khan has set a relatively high standard over the last fifteen years, and has reaped many rewards for his efforts. Dangal, though, crystallizes a trend in Aamir Khan’s recent work, one that runs through 3 Idiots and PK (but not through Ghajini or Talaash): it panders to its audience, i.e. it tells us viewers what we already believe about the world, and does so in order to make us feel good about ourselves.

It’s that last bit that should give us pause: Dangal’s pandering isn’t problematic because it gives us what we want (that is banal, in the sense that it is true of most mainstream movies), it’s problematic because the film demands that it be taken seriously, and then rewards that engagement by telling us we – the “we” who have filed in to watch this film – have nothing to worry about, we have been on the right side of history all along. What is, after all, the “message” of Dangal? That girls and women are just as good as men? But who could disagree with that? Or, more to the point, while there are millions who might disagree with that, as even a casual look at India’s socio-economic data on gender and disadvantage will show, who among Dangal’s audience would disagree with a proposition framed in that fashion? And that is very much the fashion in which the film presents the proposition, with Aamir’s Mahavir Phogat leading his daughters Geeta and Babita (fantastically played by Zaira Wasim/Fatima Sana Shaikh (Geeta) and Suhani Bhatnagar/Saniya Malhotra (Babita)) into terrain traditionally off-limits to women: the world of wrestling, and in the Jat communities of Haryana to boot. The father is repeatedly told (including by how own wife) that wrestling isn’t for girls, and he refuses to take received wisdom as a given, ultimately getting his way. Nothing should be off-limits simply because one is female.

Self-evidently true, but it’s that “simply because” that trips me up: it’s where so much discrimination, so much exclusion lurks in disguise, and enables bigots and discriminators to watch this film with a clean conscience. This matters because, in today’s day and age, sexism and other forms of discrimination do not announce themselves as such (just about everyone recognizes that a certain opprobrium, a social cost, attaches to open displays of hatred, it’s almost a marker that one is un-civilized), but as something else. Today, the misogynist hastens to assure us he doesn’t have anything against women, “but…”; the racist insists he doesn’t hate African-Americans, but in fact it’s whites who bear the brunt of racism in America; Yogi Adityanath heaps vitriol against Muslims, but resists any implication that he is anti-Muslim, or even that he has any problem with pluralism (he wishes to offer us “true” pluralism, secularism, etc.). That is, if the hallmark of nineteenth- and twentieth-century –isms was essentialism (e.g. the openly expressed view that biological differences between men and women meant that each had certain spheres of activity proper to them; or that different races were scientifically demonstrated to be superior/inferior to others), the truth of our own times is the lie: a hatred that dares not speak its name, and dares a great deal as long as its name is not uttered.

For Dangal, the above means that the audience never has to face any uncomfortable questions about its own sexism, or to reckon with misogyny of a more subtle kind – everyone can get on board this party program, and the happy ending means we don’t need to worry about what isn’t on the menu. It’s the classic problem with a pop culture Raavan: if there’s a villain out there somewhere and he can be killed, you don’t need to worry about the more complicated demons within (an inversion of Javed Akhtar’s memorable lines from the Swades Ramleela song come to mind, the words “…dekh taj ke paap Raavan Ram tere mann mein hai” pointing to a more complicated, more suggestive link). There’s nothing mean or contemptible about that truth, but it is important to remember that is the truth of the super-hero comic, and as such it is no more than a pleasant diversion. In Dangal, the world is divided between the benighted – those who think women can’t do what women haven’t done for ages – and the enlightened, and the film leaves no doubt it thinks the audience is among the enlightened (indeed the structure of the film as a sports-film makes this explicit: by movie’s end we are all rooting for the female athletes, and hence for the virtuous cause they and their father stand for). From this perspective Bajrangi Bhaijan was far more interesting: consider the myriad scenes in which rather everyday examples of communalism are represented, scenes (set around, for instance, dietary practices) that evoke uncomfortable recognition (displaced by some clever humor, allowing the viewer to engage with the communalized texture of his reality, but not denied) – in Dangal, the analogous scenes create a distance between viewer and character: it’s not “we” who are sexist, not like those Haryanvi rural Jats, shocking really, what goes on there.

Dangal’s filmmakers are doubtless aware that even in the film’s target audience, women’s wrestling might be a bridge too far for some, so it deploys a second lever: nationalism. At every point, Mahavir’s and the film’s feminism is powered by nationalism, a one-two punch that makes Dangal more about the latter than the former: feminism and women’s empowerment is not an end in itself, but (this is a sports film, after all) something that will win the nation medals and glory. As a reflexive fan of the Indian cricket team, I’ve got no problem with sports-patriotism – but I do have issues with setting that up as a goal so worthy even women’s empowerment may be used to further it. Stated differently, Dangal’s double move is to accept as a given that most of us will be rooting for Geeta and Babita as they make their way in the world of wrestling (under, I might add, the leadership of their father; the film unsubtly makes the point: when Geeta forgets his path, she must contend with athletic failure) – but those who don’t must reckon with the politically uncomfortable truth that they are impediments to the nation’s progress.

(As an aside, this is of course an old trope, a common defensive or nationalist response to the colonial gaze: when purdah was seen as a symbol of Eastern backwardness, “native” modernizers hastened to insist that “their” women should discard it; when the absence of a European-style national identity was presented as evidence that the colonized weren’t ready for freedom, leaders of national movements insisted on constructing histories designed to show that just such nations had been there all along; and today, when the discourse has shifted to women’s empowerment and gay rights, it isn’t surprising to see the once-colonized try and show that they are no longer backward on that front as well – blind to the problem that accepting this discourse of modernization, that is to say, accepting the logic of catching up, means one is forever behind. Once upon a time, a culture’s greater indifference to homosexuality, or “lax” standards on men and women inter-mingling, made it backward vis-à-vis the Victorians; today the opposite makes one backward, even as the frame remains in place.)

What could be less feminist than this double move? For Dangal, feminism isn’t even worthy of standing alone as something worth striving for – the something that is worth striving for, that is valuable in and of itself, is nationalism, and women’s empowerment can help that goal. This is an instrumental feminism, not something one can give Dangal a medal for – indeed, what happens to those who seek or win no medals? What happens to causes that do not have any payoff in national glory at the end of the quest, merely greater justice (and no, I am not referring to the pat we can all give ourselves on being part of a system where that greater justice is ultimately obtainable – that’s the path of the Hollywood “feel good” movie on race and civil rights, no less clear an example of pandering than Dangal)? What happens, in short, when the quest for justice does not bring national glory? On that, it seems, Dangal has nothing to say.

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123 Responses to “Why I Have Nothing to Say on Dangal”

  1. Simply the most valuable piece I have come across on the film Qalandar. I’d even go beyond this and say that all of Bollywood (which is to say contemporary Hindi cinema) can be viewed through this lens (pun intended) barring of course exceptions here and there. This is an extremely important ‘diagnosis’ and of course it is hardly just about cinema let alone simply a commentary on Dangal. You have examined precisely Dangal as symptom of something larger or deeper without in any way denying the obvious entertainment or emotional quotient of the narrative (and this of course needs to be stressed before it becomes silly season and the usual fans start hopping up and down highlighting ‘art films’ of their favorites). But really excellent read all round.

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    • Thanks Satyam — yes that’s my experience of the film, it is very moving and entertaining and I could watch it a number of times. But nevertheless that something larger is a reservation…

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  2. I read Great Bong’s brilliant piece in the morning , and now I read this piece by Q.
    They seem to be kind of related , although I don’t exactly know how and where they link ….

    The Five Stages of Grief Once Again
    The next stage, anger, they also live through. When Omar Abdullah, yet another darling of the “NDTVs and the Wires” of the world, says that the opposition should give up on 2019, and concentrate on 2024, he is lashing out in anger, and this impotent rage is reflected in a cross-section of sentiments. that come floating on my social media feed.

    Like this, which is to be read in Bob Christo “Tum sala Indian log” accent.
    In other words, Indian democracy would be functioning properly if there were no Indians in it. Yeah, figure that one out.

    https://greatbong.net/2017/03/18/the-five-stages-of-grief-once-again/

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    • Tum saala Haryana ka jahil jaat Phogat sisters kya jaano- feminism , nationalism ..
      Bibi Ayyub sikhayegee tumhe nationalism !!

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    • With Rocky I never know ke tareef kar rahe hain ke chaddi utaar rahe hain…

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think a lot of what you say has merit, but I also feel films are the most secular, entertaining, melting pots with only profit as a motive .
        a lot of successful films dil mein aati hain, samajh nahee aatee..
        too much critical analysis is injurious to SS !!

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    • Aap Bhai UP and yogiji ko follow kar rahe hai ya nahi…bilkul chuppi hai

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      • Politics I always follow with great interest

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        • Would love to hear your take. I was asking Rocky, the bhaiyyaji of the blog

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          • Di – yes I am, I will be honest and say I was not very enthused by the choice initially , but my cousins, friends – people who are actually settled there, are really really pleased with Yogi becoming the CM ( a lot of them are Doscos, doctors, CAs, professors ).
            Then I saw Paglika, Rajdeep, Burqa, Ketkar, Waghle, wire, newslaundry, troll.in etc. go crazy , and I realized kee yaar yahee inn B### #$$o ney Modi key saath kiya tha.. iska matlab Yogi aadmi sahee hai !! LOL!!
            Let’s see, hope he follows Modi’s policies – No appeasement, only development !!

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          • Rocky: based on everything Adityanath has said and done, you don’t think there is a reason for people to be very concerned? I mean, media par aisa bhi kya outrage ke banda bole I will support whatever they are opposed to? His track record is from the UP gunda-end of politics, and surely he has not been selected for development (if that were the case there were better choices! Has Gorakhpur developed after two decades of him representing them in parliament?), he has been selected because he stands for some really violent, anti-minority and bigoted tendencies (and, I don’t think we can blame media for this: he has been going around for years saying these things, and is not shy about it!); he has chosen to be famous for love jihad, anti-Muslim comments, sexist comments, not to be well-known for vikas…

            Let’s face it, even SP chose the clean face Akhilesh after winning last time, and neither Mayawati nor Rajnath Singh are personally associated with goondaism like this — Adityanath is a step back on that front alone. And his views are frightening (media has actually been soft on him by calling him “controversial” and “firebrand”, without in many cases repeating the worst comments: it’s not “controversial” to say one will take 100 women for every Hindu woman who marries a Muslim: that is just sick; it’s not “provocative” to say one would like to install idols in every mosque, it’s just an expression of contempt and hatred for “the other”): until a few days ago they would be considered fringe even within the BJP, but it’s clear we have to re-define mainstream/fringe now.

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          • Q may be he has, but the appeasement had increased to such an extent , and with even the police in favor of the gundas of the minority kee a Dabang was need of the hour.
            .
            However his track record in Parliament is amazing…Paglika had to retract the lie that she was peddling within an hour by saying – “oh he did not say that but shared the stage ”

            Aside-Just last – my friends son was beaten with serious injuries by minority gundas for shouting ghar ghar Modi, and the police did not do anything.

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          • “he has been selected because he stands for some really violent, anti-minority and bigoted tendencies”

            Jaisa Raja, waisi sena…

            which is a direct result of praja…

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          • Also look at the ET journalist posting a picture of Yogi and Rajnath singh with a caption- two Thakurs !!

            Yogi has a caste, but terror has no religion for these libtards !!

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          • Re.-Let’s face it, even SP chose the clean face Akhilesh after winning last time, and neither Mayawati nor Rajnath Singh are personally associated with goondaism like this — Adityanath is a step back on that front alone

            Do not agree on Akhilesh and mayawati at all!
            Mayawati openly courted the Muslims in this election, SP on record said that no one, including the police will be able t touch a single Muslim if we come to power.
            They are the worst kind of politicians .
            Rajnath Singh IMO would have bee status quo which UP cannot tolerate now.

            As for Yogi, I agree initially my thinking was exactly like you, but now I am convinced UP needed a Yogi !!
            Let’s see . let’s give him one year .

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          • So finally UP gunda raj will be over!
            Here are his minority fans t hat voted and rooted for him. The gorkhpur math has muslim saints in its lineage as well…surprising…I didn’t know

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          • aamirsaurabh Says:

            Main UP mein hi rehta hu and i voted for BJP.everyone is excited for yogi.he is doing work agressively against slaughterhouse and romeos.Everyone is upbeat abt him.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Some people dressed up in a cap with beard spouting praises for a man who said take the muslim women out of their graves and rape them too, and we are supposed to believe the propoganda that they voted for BJP?

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          • “man who said take the muslim women out of their graves and rape them too”
            Yogi didn’t say this but he was on stage when this was said.

            Warning – This is pretty inflammatory.

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          • You aren’t serious, Munna, are you? OK so he didn’t say it. Does it lessen his poison?
            They are all together in this. It’s team work.
            He has said equally vile things if not worse. He has suspended his own twitter account because people were quoting his evil tweets.

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          • I was correcting your comment.

            This has pretty much all the things:

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          • @aamirsaurabh
            You just made me realise that UP urgently needs to get slaughter houses shut and vigilantes running after young men for sometimes framed up charges of harassing women (especially if he’s a muslim or a dalit or any other minority).

            Police can rest.
            Farmer suicides, education, health, water, electricity etc problems are so passé

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          • Ask any girl who grew up in UP and they will tell they have been harassed multiple times.
            Police in UP (or any place where discretion is allowed ) probably will act as moral police as well, which is wrong but most of the debate always come to the point that you do something or not.
            Ideally law and order should be such that there is no need of anti-Romeo squad. But India is not there.

            I remember when Kalyan Singh made copying cognizable offense and kids were arrested. The intention was right but its implementation was wrong.There was backlash and it showed in result in subsequent election.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Copying_Act,_1992

            Liked by 1 person

          • Sorry Munna, but I don’t watch this Padmashree receiving saffronised man or his adalat nonsense or this propoganda channel. In fact there’s NO channel left to watch. They are all saffronised. Always propogating sanghi views.

            Women all over are harrased. Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, etc all BJP ruled states. Don’t single out UP. In fact it’s the dalit girls who get most harrased, raped & kidnapped to be sold as prostitutes. This is sheer propoganda that UP needs this romeo brigade or whatever.

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          • Sorry oldgold. I agree with some your points but you argue based on your ideology than facts or merit of case/point in isolation or with context.
            I can argue with you but I don’t see a common ground of discussion.

            Liked by 3 people

          • Lets hope Trump doesn’t install some priests to rule over states and make the lives of ‘others’ a misery.

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          • The man is talking of “hindu ladkiyon ko aghva kiya gaya ….” & he takes it for granted it’s by muslim?
            Well, read this – though there was no TV channel diuscussing it.

            BJP leader Juhi Chowdhury, who was arrested for her alleged link to a child trafficking racket in West Bengal and sent to 12 days CID custody, has named some “influential political personalities” during her grilling, a CID source said on Thursday
            http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/bengal-child-trafficking-arrested-bjp-woman-leader-names-political-personalities/story-uFOBvJLzqKO4gGAXzloQkM.html

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          • aamirsaurabh Says:

            olgold,women safety is a big big issue unless u r a SP/Congress supporter.i can understand ur frustation atm being a SP supporter.

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          • aamirsaurabh Says:

            In short You can do whatever propaganda u want to do,Forget left,forget centre,it’s ‘right’ dominating in majority of the states and rightly so.

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  3. Q bhai, itna toh bol diya , fir title mein likhtey ho I don’t have anything to say … ab kya jaan logey !! LOL

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Qalander as usual you don’t disappoint.

    Reality on most social message films is ‘we’ all know it. And agree the film shouldn’t, at least i didn’t, be viewed from a feminist ‘card’ tone ala Kangana. It’s obvious throughout it was a nationalistic​ film from the start. The end further reinforces that.

    I’m not quite sure what could be created in the world of Dangal to have the opportunity to say something on it?

    These kind of film’s will always create an obvious convergence to victory. Good beating evil etc. A film on a losing effort will rarely be entertained.

    Maybe the coach could be female rather than one man’s methods Vs. anothers. So feminist angle is tackled that way. Maybe Mahavir should be sexist in this angle.

    Ps. Men and women are equal. I’m all for equal pay etc. But not on a tennis court. If women play 5 set matches then fine but in certain ways, simply biological ways, men are superior species. This is proven by any athletic records period. And likewise women are better at many things – multi tasking, emotional intelligence. In my experience they support parents better then men. I’m not out to rage war on men Vs. women. I could go further. Precisely why the Dangal scene where the daughter beats the father is odd. The sheer weight alone of my father at 65 odd would kick my 30 year old sisters ass all over town. She can get all the elite training she wants, but one thump from my dad she’s lights out.

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  5. Thanks for providing such an erudite & perceptive reading of the movie and a unique one at that Qalandar sahab!! I have disagreements with some of your observations which border on being “abstruse & recondite” with delving too deep for the sake of making it look like an academic excercise & pedantic!! I’m half-asleep so would return with the issues i have with your commentary. Nevertheless an outstanding piece!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. AamirsFan Says:

    What a great read. Seems like the views are similar between you and Satyam and I felt the same. You guys just express it way better and more thoughtfully than I ever could. lol.

    this is what I wrote under Satyam’s ‘informal review’ of Dangal….

    https://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/on-dangal-informally/#comment-344827

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  7. At the end of the day it is a biopic from Haryana hinterlands. Less space to manouvre. They wanted to make an entertaining movie with the raw material in hand. Interesting because we can read many things from this biopic. Asking to win for the country to make them think not about themselves but about the country as billions will be watching to see them winning for the country. They will not cheer that much if they look at the competitor as a selfish being bothered about only himself or herself. It is like win for family, win for school, win for a particular group. Individual becomes country by default. Especially in sports. The film allows you to ponder about so many things in a subversive way. There are two layers. One for the masses and one for the thinking. This kind of discussion is not possible in a politically correct fiction like BB because it is tailored to feed everyone.
    In his own way Phogat wanted his girls to succeed because he was made fun of for producing four girls. It is his personal battle which was won and the collateral benefiaries are his daughters and the country. We have to empathise with him than find fault with him. It is better to find fault with the system than with one individual who had little choice and little education.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Bilkul sahi, har shabd.

      Liked by 2 people

    • What an ace comment Sanjana!! You expressed my feelings with more precision than i hardly could!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks sanjana; a couple of points:

      1. Re: “At the end of the day it is a biopic from Haryana hinterlands. Less space to manouvre. They wanted to make an entertaining movie with the raw material in hand.”

      Yes, but this raises the question of why this biopic and this material. That is, I completely agree with you that one has less room to maneuver where a biopic is concerned — however, that is also why I have restricted my comments to the filmmakers and to the filmmakers’ choices.

      2. Re: “In his own way Phogat wanted his girls to succeed because he was made fun of for producing four girls. It is his personal battle which was won and the collateral benefiaries are his daughters and the country. We have to empathise with him than find fault with him. It is better to find fault with the system than with one individual who had little choice and little education.”

      I guess this follows on from my first comment; you completely misunderstand me: nowhere have I criticized Mahavir Phogat, nor would I dream of doing so; I speak only of “Dangal” and of the characters and representations in the film, and have been quite explicit that the issues I have are with the film’s choices, not with the real-life individual’s choices. Yes it’s a biopic but with all biopics there is the question of what is going to be in the film, what is not going to be in it; the principle of selection is even more crucial to a biopic than to perhaps other narrative genres…

      3. Re: “There are two layers. One for the masses and one for the thinking. This kind of discussion is not possible in a politically correct fiction like BB because it is tailored to feed everyone.”

      I strongly disagree here, in the sense that to the extent it is useful to speak of “two layers”, then those layers are just as present in Bajrangi Bhaijan as well; stated differently, I do not believe Dangal is a deeper film than Bajrangi Bhaijaan (I do believe it is a deeper film than Sultan, of course, but that is a non-serious and rather mediocre film), although Dangal is a better — in the sense of better-made — film; and moreover, Bajrangi panders less than Dangal does to its target audience, by virtue of cinematic moments and sequences that are a wee bit closer to making the audience shift in its seat than is true of Dangal (in fact, Bajrangi also has that old Desai-esque virtue or perhaps cliche of “even-handedness”, with pointed humor at the expense of the prejudices of veg/non-veg-eaters, mapping to Hindus/Muslims in this film; airing of prejudices around caste/skin-color — all material that most films stay away from).

      I’d add: Dangal is an excellent film, but it is in many ways in an American sports movie genre, and hence the operating myth is one of naturalism — the cinematic myth for our times in India, but no less a myth for that; Bajrangi operates on different terrain, masala terrain in the sense of “real-world” issues (issues too painful, unpleasant, controversial, or traumatic to be spoken of openly in our popular culture) being displaced to the art-form of, represented in, the movie, enabling one to engage with the trauma, obliquely as it were. (A classic example of this is the fiction of the three brothers separated in childhood, and brought up as adherents of different religions; the displacement enables one to engage with the rather important question of how diverse groups and people are to live together, in a way that is much more difficult to do where the film is naturalistic and does not permit such displacement: thus Amar Akbar Anthony or even Coolie is a stronger fiction than (e.g.) Ratnam’s Bombay, and perhaps even a more honest film in some sense.)

      There is no “masala” cinema without this displacement of symbols: you can certainly have excellent popular/massy films in the absence of that dimension (and Dangal is an example of one) but they risk meaning not much more than the narrative arc of the film; and certainly where “masala” gets it wrong — e.g. by tired, stale, recycling of older forms and tropes, emptied of everything except for pomposity — you are left with mere posture and bluster (there are too many examples to name), but when it gets it right, ah, then you have something that means more than the story it tells…

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      • Phogat is not directly criticised but as the movie is all about Phogat and his thoughts and actions, Phogat receives those brickbats.

        And comparing a biopic to a non biopic movie are movies is like comparing apples and oranges.

        I think you wanted uncomfortable topics to be raised in this film too. As the film was conceived as Phogat’s journey and for this purpose social commentary was not that much needed than about daughters being encouraged to compete instead of being married off.

        As for Nationalism, this must have been the result of what aamir khan got to know about Phogat’s insistence on winning the medal for the country and all that.

        And I am happy you reviewed after a long time. It is good to see you or read you.

        Hope An Jo also returns.

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      • BB was all about religious practices, eating habits, Indo Pak relations. And AAA was also about hindu muslim equations. In Dangal there is no hindu muslim angle and the sport is not played between India and Pakistan. The templates are different.
        It is something else if you liked BB more than Dangal. That is an individual preference. Just as I liked Talaash more than Dangal.

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  8. This is a good but a complicated read due to the nationalism angle. This is also one of the movies where Aamir looking back at its glorious box office run at the box-office can say – accha chuxxxya kaata sabka….. 🙂 For him there couldn’t have been a better movie than a Dangal to absolve himself from the intolerance altercations of the recent past. Audience was left with a quintessential ‘shaadi ka ladoo jo khaye wo pachhtaye jo na khaye wo bhi pachhtaye….’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Re: “For him there couldn’t have been a better movie than a Dangal to absolve himself from the intolerance altercations of the recent past. ”

      Perhaps, but let’s give Aamir some credit for sincerity here: he has been focused on this theme from the days of Satyamev Jayate (multiple episodes were focused on gender equity), and even discussed the Phogats (might even have had them on the show) in one episode — and all of that was BEFORE the ridiculous fracas over what he said. He’s clearly had this theme in mind for quite a while…and has grown close to the family (on more than one occasion the Phogats have been part of family events of Aamir’s, even after the film’s release, where there’s no publicity angle); indeed he’s even part of an ad campaign with a similar theme (he plays a Punjabi mithaiwaala with entrepreneurial daughters, who gets to gently correct a customer who assumes his sons must be taking the business to new heights)…

      Liked by 3 people

      • Re: “…he’s even part of an ad campaign with a similar theme (he plays a Punjabi mithaiwaala with entrepreneurial daughters, who gets to gently correct a customer who assumes his sons must be taking the business to new heights)…”

        This is the ad I was referring to.

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        • livewire Says:

          I had seen this ad and if I remember I was the one who posted the link here which is when all aamir fans went ecstatic. This is a nice meaningful ad but at the same time excessively done esp coming after all SMJ episodes in mind. Aamir is generally brilliant but too sugary for my liking and I am too much of a skeptic to like this goody goody mitha waala Aamir. In this modern world you need to be a first class bastard most of the time and screw around otherwise life gets worthless and people trample all over you. Sissies have no place in these modern times so I kind of get put off by such personalities these days.

          That is why I called Dangal competent and had no complains coming out of the theatre. I hope he is playing various shades in TOH and takes us by surprise the way he has done in the past with few of his movies prominent ones being Rangeela and DCH.

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          • But you once commented Aakash of DCH giving you “smart-alec” vibes which Aamir made a career out of playing it in almost all his movies be it Lagaan, Sarfarosh,Rangeela or Ghajini!! And here you are listing DCH & Rangeela performances of Aamir surprising you??

            Liked by 2 people

          • Rangeela was first of its kind & overnight Aamir got out of the Jugal Hansraj Chikna – Chocolaty mode ….so that was a surprise atleast for me.

            Prior DCH, Aamir had done some meh cinema like mela, raja hindustani and even his Lagaan act was a bit forced and calculated – not avadhi in the real sense of doing things…..and then bam comes DCH ……a complete collegian masterburbation and one of a kind for India…(happy they chose Goa than any other foreign exotic sojourn )

            So yes these it was worth noticing. But then aamir followed the same ‘smart alec’ rut right until PK. Dangal gravitas is age driven.

            Like

          • “Dangal gravitas is age driven.”

            Yes growing up and maturity are a part of life. Not that a Salman fan would understand much less one who thinks Obama won because Salman wasn’t in US politics or that the Mahatma wasn’t as ‘massy’ as Salman or that Einstein might have come up with relativity but he never had Salman’s ‘connect’.

            On Dangal incidentally I saw some of your recent comments. I’ll square the circle with your past past comments:

            1)Dangal is so big because it’s so perfect a film and Aamir takes so much time to get everything just right etc etc.. so no credit really goes to him as a star.

            2)Now we see the ‘problems’ of Dangal getting exposed. It’s not that great a film.

            3)Aamir still isn’t a huge star because on TV (hey I thought it was about getting the biggest gross in the theaters?) more people bought more jalebis when they watched Sultan.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Re: “In this modern world you need to be a first class bastard most of the time and screw around otherwise life gets worthless and people trample all over you. Sissies have no place in these modern times so I kind of get put off by such personalities these days.”

            Not sure how to respond here: suffice it to say that if everyone is a first-class bastard, then the only thing that happens is that things get first class screwed up — a world where the only choice is between bastards and sissies seems like one the bastards have bequeathed us!

            Like

          • With Mr Satyam, I notice making outrageous comments is the only way to get him out of his stupor, though it’s always a delight to see members getting riled up and exchanging raw thoughts.

            On Sultan underwhelming box office final totals after a monumental start is a case for concern for reaching wider audience. Unfortunately the ‘rape’ figure of speech fiasco is from the pre DT acceptable era of “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” The thresholds for An Jo and Jayshah kind of fence sitting audience was on higher level than what we see now. I still maintain Sultan is much more wholesome in many ways if I put my traditional movie going audience hat. Dangal felt empty after a point though it is a much better and cohesive story telling than PK which was unusually uneven. One must also account for the fact that competent works for an Aamir in a bigger way due to the prospect of rare sightings of major star at theatre so it makes it a must see for all and part of the laundry list of things to do.

            I have already made my dislike for early TV screenings for big ticket movies very clear as box office takes a beating and one cannot measure the figs accurately….though for producers it gets compensated with higher satellite rights etc. That is why from box office point of view a PK, Sultan, Dangal and BB are all part of the same range. The standout will be a DDLJ/ Sholay / HAHK moment which has not happened…..but god knows we may just have our
            own Hacksaw Ridge in June.

            Like

          • “In this modern world you need to be a first class bastard most of the time and screw around otherwise life gets worthless and people trample all over you”

            My apologies.. I didn’t realize this was the ethic you were following. I wouldn’t have responded to so many comments had I known. Guess this explains why you’re a fan of Salman.

            Like

          • It explains everything & inadvertently insulting himself. I guess that poor chap on the pavement was just part of this circle of life.

            Satyam please let Naveen post, much better than a guy like this. His comments need a filter process that usually starts in a brain.

            Like

          • On the Naveen comments the spam filter acted on its own. I had no part in it. I did retrieve some of them after Naveen said he was having a problem.

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          • Q, we live in changing times and sissies will train themselves to tackle the bastard types…change of gear ….that’s how the world keeps evolving.

            Reading your blog you seem to be a proficient historian. I am start to get into it….so when I revisit some of the history one cannot help but notice human race has always been bloody and been behaving very violently since its origin and there is no reason for humans to turn namby-pamby now.

            Like

          • Re: “…one cannot help but notice human race has always been bloody and been behaving very violently since its origin and there is no reason for humans to turn namby-pamby now”

            There is one reason: it’s not pleasant to be at the receiving end of bloody violence.

            Like

          • livewire Says:

            Yes definitely. But this is also part of what we say ‘shrishti ka niyam’ and that’s where Darwinian evolutionary theory of Survival of the fittest originated. The cycle will keep repeating till the race gets extinct and if one goes by modern thinking physicists like Stephen Hawking is much closer than we thought and increasingly, most of the threats humanity faces come from progress in technology….so let’s see where it all ends up.

            Like

          • Name dropping doesn’t make you smart or clever BTW.

            Like

          • livewire Says:

            @” I didn’t realize this was the ethic you were following. I wouldn’t have responded to so many comments had I known. Guess this explains why you’re a fan of Salman”

            I have no problem if you think that way and isn’t social networking all about forming virtual opinions. Please bear in mind the general acceptance of an opinion is not assurance of its truth.

            Like

          • Lol virtual opinions. You crack me up. One hand you want this world where opinions count. Other world bastards leave behind bloodshed in name of competition. Do you understand what you talk off?

            You’re a control freak.

            Like

          • livewire Says:

            @Name dropping doesn’t make you smart or clever BTW.”

            That’s part of your own narrow mindedness. Not here to outsmart others but just share. There is no need to get personal and reach out for something beyond the blog comments.

            Like

        • livewire Says:

          @”You’re a control freak”.

          Once again unnecessary personal call. Please don’t test my limits on decency as the conversation never veered in your direction.

          Like

          • Let’s call it a test or survival of the fittest. Or are you now a big old sugar coated softy like Aamir & playing the social card.

            Like

          • livewire Says:

            @”Or are you now a big old sugar coated softy like Aamir & playing the social card.”

            You continue to comment on a very personal level. Not expected this from you.

            Survival mode / gear will be put on if required. Don’t wish to turn in this into a chat box and turn into a motor mouth retort.

            Moderators stand by!

            Like

          • I’m excited

            Like

  9. Wonderful Piece indeed. I too can watch Dangal multiple time…have seen it thrice already. 🙂

    Like

  10. Q your review is written with half empty glass perspective. Most of the change happen subtly not with brute force as you espouse in review. If you say any offender that you are wrong, they will get defensive. There is a problem statement in the movie which you ignored because you wanted it more explicit. The movie starts with what to expect from wife and followed it for girl children in rural Haryana (and it is true for most part of India). You can make people uncomfortable with “truth” but you will lose audience. You will lose the chance to change them. Even if you are conservative and you see the movie, you may change because it shows perspective. You can make Visaranai but you cannot expect most of the movie going audience to accept it. And it is “Truth”. There is always Truth out there but if people don’t see it because how it is presented then what is the point of it?

    Liked by 2 people

  11. “From this perspective Bajrangi Bhaijan was far more interesting: consider the myriad scenes in which rather everyday examples of communalism are represented”

    I don’t know how they are uncomfortable. Most Hindus know what an average Muslim eats and vice versa; it was humorous for precisely that reason (audience already knew that she is Muslim and from Pakistan). It is true for any customs. A counter to above comment is that it was propagating stereotypes because there are no resolutions.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. ‘ What happens, in short, when the quest for justice does not bring national glory? On that, it seems, Dangal has nothing to say.’

    We dont need a film for this. Deepa Karmakar did not win any medals. But she was appreciated immensely for the effort she put in. People can take defeats also if they are fought valiantly. If Aamir wants to make a movie on Deepa, he will dwell on this aspect.

    As for nationalism overpowering feminism. Or is it feminism making the nation proud? At the end, no one forgets that it is Geeta who won with her grit and determination. And nation became the collateral beneficiary.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent piece, Qalandar.

    “Dangal, though, crystallizes a trend in Aamir Khan’s recent work, one that runs through 3 Idiots and PK (but not through Ghajini or Talaash): it panders to its audience, i.e. it tells us viewers what we already believe about the world, and does so in order to make us feel good about ourselves.”

    This gets to the heart of the matter w.r.t. Aamir Khan. I’m not a fan of feel-good prima facie (and my liking for Hirani is with a distance for this very reason) but here, Raju Hirani perhaps acquits himself by taking the path of gentle ribbing rather than offer a holistic critique of ‘things as they are.’ Dangal on the other hand means to offer its ‘all is well’ message with dead seriousness. That is to say, Hirani in many ways (self-deprecatingly; don’t mean to say it’s a very ambitious creative choice) invites viewers to see through his own artifice. After all, the watchman doesn’t really know if all is well. This is a point I didn’t quite follow through in my initial viewing of 3 Idiots but I think there’s something to be said about Hirani’s choices in this respect.

    About Aamir Khan setting a relatively high standard in commercial cinema, I must say I kinda saw this point when he did something like Talaash. But I’ve come to see 3 Idiots also with quite some respect subsequently.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I did not take Dangal seriously. Or for that matter I dont take any film seriously. The film may want us to take it seriously, but it cant force us to do so. I think most of us just forget and wait for the next movie to happen. Some images may remain with us if we liked a particular movie. As for messages, we can take it with a pinch of salt or leave it.

    Like

  15. Dangal is not an intellectual film, although it quite an intense and serious film. It is designed to be acceptable to a wide range of audience. Its merit lies in not following typical bollywood commercial cliches or dumbing it down. As for social message of women empowerment, the patriarchial angle dissolves its effect. The same will be true for Aamir’s next – Secret Superstar. The lead will be a girl ( instead of the boy in TZP), but Aamir as the mentor musician will be instrumental in making her career. Once again its women empowerment orchestrated by a man. Critics will always say that the supporting act (pun intended for Secret Superstar) is diluting the message.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. livewire Says:

    Finally the cracks are visible in Dangal paradise! …and it’s about time !!

    TV run will measure films further acceptance once the movie ages out. Both Bajrangi and Sultan have smashed all previous TV records and setting new benchmark with each rerun. Just yesterday BB was trending again

    Mmoseen‏ @TheMmoseen_87 20h20 hours ago
    #BajrangiBhaijaan is the only film which trends on twitter every time it is telecasted on Television thank u @BeingSalmanKhan for such film

    Mmoseen‏ @TheMmoseen_87 20h20 hours ago
    Some films are just made to be loved each time when you watch them !!!! #BajrangiBhaijaan @BeingSalmanKhan @kabirkhankk

    Like

    • Yes, Sultan and BB are masterpieces! Vindicated by no less than Q. Dangal is a poor cousin with too many cracks. Salman rules!

      Like

    • I loved Bajrangi Bhaijaan; ok with Sultan; Dangal is any day superior to Sultan and will always be loved. When it is shown on tv, plenty of fans will watch, record if possible for rewatch, enjoy this simple funny sweet film again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Goal posts shifting? Why not create a scenario where we know Salman is more prolific than Aamir? You know court visiting​, deaths (animal or human), bruises on women? TV ratings are good as ppl didn’t turn up when it mattered, at the cinema – you know when you pay for it not when it’s free.

      Like

    • P.K Talli Says:

      Sultan premiered on TV after 98 days of its release . Dangal still running after 90 days , will complete 100 days . Ise kehte hain real acceptance !

      Liked by 2 people

    • ‘Both Bajrangi and Sultan have smashed all previous TV records’ .. This is hardly true .. not even remotely true. It is just that BARC started providing such impressions since few months now .. so yes we can say among new releases since few months, Salman movies are doing best. But definitely if we get just 15 years statistics of impressions, job done by new movies are not even 5% of what was achieved by some past blockbusters. Heck .. leave old times, Sultan couldn’t even cross Sooryavansham viewership last week .. so just 9th ot 10th screening of movie is lagging behind of Nth screening of 19 years old movie. https://twitter.com/yakuzazoomin/status/842800037549826048

      Like

  17. livewire Says:

    The word ‘competent’ comes to mind when one talks about Dangal. Rest is Aamir persona and credibility which took it to 400cr.

    Honestly were you blown away by this movie say like a RDB or a DCH?

    Rest I am happy with Q’s review and crisp analysis where he has credited the current political undertones for its major acceptance at the theatre.

    Like

    • Dangal is a sweet, lovely, funny, feel good film, smelling of Mother Earth. I could sense Punjab in Udta Punjab, Haryana in Dangal. Love both these films, but especially Dangal, all its cast, the music, the cinematography, the direction, the performances which were so seamless. It’s fans include people who are not Aamir fans. It’s dialogues need special mention. Can repeat them — the guy in Rohtak ( or was it Meerut) asking the male competitor to go easy on the chori; her reply.☺ Lovely film Dangal.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Are you blown away by anything but Salman? Wake me up when Salman even tries an Akash or DJ.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s going below the belt Jayshah! Not expected from a prim and proper brit….don’t give a free pass to the Yankee in satyam who jumps on such innuendos

        Like

        • Below the belt kind of suits your personality. You latch onto anything remotely discerning concerned to Aamir and are even more pronounced if it comes from someone profound like Q. Yet you’ll ignore everything else like his comments w.r.t Sultan. It’s silly childish behaviour. Cherry picking what you like and closing your eyes and ears to what you don’t. A true blue fanatic.

          Like

  18. Phogat sisters ney bibi ayyub kee thodee se kya bajai, poora SS Dangal ( and Haryana, and Bharat ) key khilaaf ho gaya !!!
    Lage raho !!

    Like

  19. Unfortunately the review has caught in the storm that is brewing between two sets of fans. For none of Q’s fault. Aamir fans felt a little letdown and to add insult to injury is praising BB which is a Salman film. I was waiting when this fact will be taken advantage of to take potshots at dangal and aamir fans. well, it happend!

    My sincere apologies for being part of this. I just could not help it.

    Like

    • was caught in the storm

      Like

      • To be honest it’s slim pickings as far as compliments for Salman films. Let the little livewire have is day in the sun. Even i get wound up by this fanatic fan who abuses acting of even the greatest of actors. Remarkably Salman could be a serial killer and he’ll get a defense.

        Like

        • livewire Says:

          Life is too short for a ‘Salman’ type to make my day in the sun.
          Re ‘greatest of actors’….like they say no one should be above the law, similarly none should be above public ridicule if they choose to display their histrionics and fall flat.

          Salman gets his fair share of ridicule not only here but generally the internet types are never kind to him. I am no fanatic but just act as an antidote to the vitriol heaped on him time and again. No one is sadhu and sant among celebrities….even the politicians…its all your own perspective. For all the disdain for Salman , the members of the blog never realize what’s good for the goose is good for the gander!

          Like

  20. This continuous comparison between Aamir & Salman, Sultan & Dangal is getting puerile & being stretched unnecessarily with no foreseeable consensus on it!! Let’s enjoy ourselves the glorious run of both the Khans & their movies as both are doing fantasticly well in their respective careers & are way too different from each other to be compared, so rather than waging war to settle the “supremacy conundrum” between the two, shouldn’t we be acting with maturity by not indulging in such trivial fan wars??

    Let’s be rational than fanatical as the latter brings with it the hatred & jealously which when combined are “injurious & fatal” to everyone’s well-being from either sides!! Let’s focus our energies on comprehending & dissecting the profundity of this piece than squandering it on the futile debate of one-upmanship between Aamir & Salman 😒😒

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is difficult to be rational in the face of irrational arguments. Ever since Dangal achieved tremendous success on all fronts, there are attempts to make it look like an average film. If a student tops everytime, there are attempts to make the student guilty for topping continuously. So what is the big deal because the student has been monotonous in getting the things right.

      Like

    • Why should one accept some lame argument without countering it? Even on BR blog many violently disagree with him.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Sounds like a yoga class, but we like to Dangal

      Liked by 2 people

  21. There is a news that dangal is releasing in china in april.

    Like

  22. tonymontana Says:

    I am a part of a group elsewhere where the arguments some people come up to undermine Dangal’s success is surprising to say the least. Incidentally they think Dangal cannot achieve 380 crores because it’s a sports film and its reach is limited. It might have done 200 crore and Sultan actually grossed double of it.

    Lately I got to know they hate Aamir for his “intolerance” comment! Hard to reason with such bigoted mindset.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. News is from Aamirchinesefans twitter account.Though there is no official news.i hope it’s a dubbed mandarin release.

    Like

  24. Qalander – not to put you on the line. What precisely needs to be discussed in Dangal and putting your script / directors hat on what would you do?

    Like

    • Here’s one thing I would have added/highlighted: examples of sexism that Geeta faces AFTER she leaves the village — there was potential there with a bunch of sequences in the sports complex, but the lens chosen to view that was “hey this old-school coach is content with mediocrity, as opposed to Mahavir etc. etc.”; certainly the wonderful moment between Mahavir and the sports bureaucrat early on who talks about how little money there is for women’s wrestling (“…aur utne ke to aap laddoo le aaye!”) sets the stage for it, but it doesn’t go anywhere. That way, you wouldn’t just have gender-disadvantage as an issue “in the Jat village” but more generally, as something all of us are actually complicit in (to bring up Bajrangi Bhaijan again since I discussed it in the review, in that film communal or caste-stereotypes are not something out-sourced to others, Salman’s character is himself implicated in it, forcing an audience identification in a way not possible in Dangal; while Mahavir is clearly an old-school patriarch at the beginning of the narrative arc, the film quicly moves on to The Task of getting Geeta and Babita ready; that, combined with the precise fact that this is a biopic — Bajrangi can stand in for us the way a masala hero can, but Mahavir’s story is Mahavir’s story — prevents that sort of uncomfortable identification).

      Another way to answer your question, Jay, is that I’d try to make this more of a feminist sports film than it ended up being; and I think one can do that with no violence to the bio-pic aspect or to taking any more liberties than the film doubtless does — the material is all there. Now zooming back even further, if I wanted to make a film on this theme I probably wouldn’t choose this material to begin with; i.e. I’d probably choose material that hit a little closer to home where the multiplex audience was concerned, that didn’t focus on “sexism out there in the hinterland” — and if I DID choose that material, I would make a more masala movie to eliminate that “distance” between audience and characters…

      Like

      • The issues i have with regards to your piece are:

        1- You, rather than commenting on the material at hand, seem to dwell on what it could have been or should have been!! Dangal wouldn’t be Dangal if it were to traverse the different path than what it actually took to become Dangal!! Every movie does leave some miniscule scope, however perfect it might seem, a little something to be added, edited or presented differently than the one presented before us!!

        2- Aamir wanted to tap the optimal audience possible with out leaving any demography as the message in Dangal is such a powerful & vital one for the Indian society which could not be afforded to be missed due to “subtle & nuanced” nature of story telling. TZP & Talaash box office results are the testimonies to his fear of leaving behind a huge chunk of demography who could have been on board if not for this reason!! Dangal has all the ingredients to attract each & every stratum of society which is what Aamir wanted & cater to than catering to a particular section of society hence presenting Dangal in such a manner for it to be accessible to all.

        Liked by 1 person

        • On 1) i think any critic is allowed to say as much about what’s in the film than what’s not. We all do this. I certainly do. As recently as ADHM if not for the ridiculous cancer scenes i liked the film.

          On 2) reality is Aamir is in a box office expectation position, he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. He doesn’t have the superstar image to of others or the luxury to do frivolous entertainment. He’s done it now and then. A Ferrari doesn’t mass produce. But the desire of the mass is a Ferrari. He taps into that desire.

          Back to Qalander. I really enjoyed his piece. On his last response, I’d say the ‘lens’ is already predetermined as a setting for women’s wrestling. The coach knows he is coaching women, it’s his job. I think feminist movie is what i was expecting, but with such a plethora of those the gentle touch in Dangal with a more national move was a welcome departure. The film focuses on sexist behaviour in the village, in elite sport where there is already a division between sexes (pre conceive), other than pay or funding there is not much to discuss. I think a female coach would have been interesting, to see Mahavir’s reaction.

          Like

          • Once she is in the top echelons on sports, the sexist / feminist card is gone. She’s overcome it. Funding is an issue obviously. Possibly pay. But beyond that or pregnancy (career break) there is very little to portray onscreen. That feminist / sexist arc is the early hurdle ala ‘women can’t play wrestling’ etc. But once she’s got national level support sexism is hardly a topical topic in the film. It is replaced by nationalism seemlessly.

            Liked by 1 person

          • “Ferrari doesn’t mass produce. But the desire of the mass is a Ferrari. He taps into that desire.”
            Jai this is a perfect summation of brand Aamir khan; Aamir himself would be flattered reading these lines to define him!!

            Like

        • Q said that he would not have touched this story because it does not satisfy certain parameters. The film is aggressive just like the sport is. Aamir went with the aggressiveness.

          Like

        • The film is for single screen audience. Because of Aamir’s reputation even multiplex audience fell for it.

          Like

        • In short, it is aamir khan’s gadar.

          Like

  25. What if they lost? Or she lost? The same question can be asked for many sports films like CDI, Lagaan and the rest.
    Thats why I am talking about Dipa Karmakar.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. P.S.- aur issi key saath behno aur bhaiyyon- iss thread ney ab gear shift kar diya hai …. and will march forward towards 500 comments !! LOL
    P.S.-2 – My last comment on this topic though !!!
    Jai Ho !!

    Like

    • OK fair point on the thread — in that spirit no more UP politics and back to even more vicious battles (aamir and salman); from this thread it is clear I have been away too long, am not up to speed on the star-political currents!

      Liked by 2 people

      • While people are debating, discussing, arguing about UP CM the govt has quiety passed draconian laws taking away the freedom of the people.
        Wait and see aage aage hota hai kya.

        Liked by 1 person

  27. Thanks God my comments went through. Since last 15 days it was not appearing, probably going to spam. I thought i have been programmed to be ignored. 🙂

    Like

  28. Enjoyed reading this Qalandar. Very interesting take and I must say I agree completeley with it. I haven’t seen the film, nor am I interested in seeing it any more which I was hoping to after the DVD release (because of the bad taste the Phogat sisters’ attack on Gurmehr has left in my mouth).

    Actually even while the film was being made I was wondering whether women empowerment meant – winning- medals or any other such thing.
    I mean a more worthwhile story would be of a normal common woman being empowered to just lead a normal life, even without becoming famous, great, medalists etc etc

    JMO though I’m sure it’s a film one can watch with pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. aamirsaurabh Says:

    Dangal china trailer.

    Liked by 1 person

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