Three crucial ingredients for making a Hindi sports themed film; corrupt officials, a sullen glory hunting community and overactive institution/patriarchy (which by default interferes in anything and everything, both in reel and real life). Whilst Dangal pays lip service to all these elements, where it scores is putting the father-daughter bond at the heart of the story so that all else can either be forgiven or forgotten for what is an ultimately entertaining and rewarding journey.
There are a few problems; for me, the film seemed to be in cruise control for the first half and only steps up post interval – not a flaw but it is certainly capable of covering challenging territory sooner. I was also thought it would have been interesting if one of the daughters had been determined not to wrestle at all – Dangal paints a bleak alternative for Babita and Geeta should they not wish to (arranged marriage). Also, Mahavir’s draconian ways may win gold for the country but leaves plenty to question regarding foisting one’s ambitions onto one’s offspring so forcefully.
Performance wise, Khan is suitably understated as the epicentre of Dangal and does show restraint which for me, marks a return to form (FYI – Dhoom 3 and PK were not for me). But it is both sets of actors who essay Geeta and Babita as well as Sakshi Tanwar as their mother who are the soul of the film – they bring their characters to life, endear and enthrall us and really make us feel protective as we watch them being flung about on screen.
Dangal is a smart entertainer – the conclusion is the perfect example of how this film realises its ambition to be all things to everyone, carefully multitasking so that it does not appear overwhelming but also keeping the viewer engaged and onside throughout. Definitely worth a watch and the perfect Christmas release, Dangal is definitely one of the better films of 2016.