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“Dangal” Wrestles Against Stereotypes, Pins Down the Details

By Tim Foley                                                                   January 12, 2017 – 23:35

NEW YORK (January 12) –  Based on true events, “Dangal” tells the story Mahavir Singh Phogat and his daughters Geeta and Babita as they struggle against societal norms and institutional corruption to pursue a dream of becoming world-class wrestlers.

The movie opens with Mahavir (Aamir Khan) as a young man forced to quit the sport of wrestling to take on a paying job and raise a family. Having only achieved national prominence, Mahavir in dogged by this decision, largely because as a competitor he was unable to reach his goal of winning an international medal for India.

Mahavir has some hope rekindled when he finds out his wife is pregnant. He hopes for the birth of a boy, but his wife Daya (Sakshi Tanwar) delivers a girl named Geeta. Next it’s Babita and then two more girls.

Knowing that girls in India don’t wrestle, Mahavir is sidelines his aspirations of coaching a wrestler capable of winning an international medal. Depressed, the former wrestler is left to sulk until a fateful incident proves that girls – specifically Geeta and Babita – are also capable of being wrestlers. The trio immediately embarks on their journey to international success, navigating 5am workouts, restrictive dieting and a traditional Indian society less-than-welcoming of female wrestlers.

Mahavir is obsessed with his children’s success and while the audience is taken through his story by the comedic narration of his brother Omkara (Aparshakti Khurrana) there is an underlying selfishness that seems to distract from Geeta and Babita’s struggles. Though it seems odd to exalt the sacrifices of a man during a movie about women overcoming obstacles, the role of the male advocate proves to be essential in taking on established power structures.