An anonymous blogger’s unmet expectations from the blockbuster movie.
I went to see Dangal with a lot of expectations. Not only because it had already been declared a very successful movie, but also because I knew the people involved in the making and appreciated their talent for story telling.
The movie started well and I enjoyed the opening sequences where Aamir Khan’s character is slowly revealed as a person who had hit the national high in wrestling and who surprisingly retreats back to his rustic life. He is looking for ways to realise his unfulfilled dream of winning a gold for the country in an international event. He lays his hopes on having a son, but instead finds himself with four daughters. A chance event makes him see that his daughters too could help make his dream come true.
The film then shows Aamir’s character trying to get the children excited about wrestling and nudging them into the sport.
For me, the film peaked when the children proved themselves in the local competition. The rest of the movie felt like a repetition of the same, but on grander scales and stages.
In an attempt to make the win at the Commonwealth Games cinematically watchable, conflict elements were introduced, including the much talked about issue with the coach.
The first half of the film was undoubtedly exciting. For the second half however, I must confess, that I was carried forward by the enthusiasm of the audience in the theatre.
The movie seemed to be hugely influenced by the drama of a sports event that was logically taken to its climax. The plot too seemed designed to bring the audience to their feet and applaud, much like in Lagaan. Despite this however, the movie came across as a rather linear story.
I also found that the movie was a little unfair to some characters, purely for cinematic reasons. Success at the box office proves the filmmakers right. But in the process, I believe that the timelessness of the movie suffered.
On my way back home, I was thinking of the movie I wish I had seen; a movie that dived deep into the psychological possibilities left unexplored in the movie.
This film would open with Aamir’s character winning the national title. He returns home to his father, who tells him to give up his sporting dreams to make a living. Worse, he learns that the sporting establishment too has no plans for him. He finds himself stuck in his hometown, robbed of his potential.
Looking for someone to blame, he identifies his father as the barrier that stood between him and sporting glory. In keeping with the Indian social structure, however, he is unable to voice his discontent or fight his father on the topic. This frustration grows in him like a tumour and manifests in occasional unruly behaviour, like fights with his colleagues.
Along the way, he decides that he will not be like his father and keep his children from realising their potential; his progeny would strive for greatness with his complete support.
Here, I would continue with the plot of the original movie, where the father discovers his children’s potential and takes up the responsibility of helping them achieve it. Through combined hard work, the children find themselves well on their way to becoming international wrestlers.
It is at this time in my movie that the father finds himself grappling with the realisation that his children’s greatness lay beyond his capability. He may have been a national coach and may have played a key role in grooming them, but he clearly lacked the skills needed to help them achieve his true international greatness. Yet, his ego keeps him from accepting this.
Although he had promised to not repeat the mistakes of his father, he too ends up limiting his children’s achievements by casting himself as the sole facilitator for brining out his kids potential. He too becomes an obstacle in the lives of his children.
By this time, the children become aware of their own talent. They acknowledge that while their father is talented, they need skilled expertise to reach their goal. The children’s desire to move to greater facilities leads to further heartburn for the father; he feels that his story is ending.
As with most mentor-student relationships, the father fails to recognise that his children have outgrown their need for him. This proves to be a moment of reckoning for him.
When the children go to the National Sports Academy, the father is left with an overwhelming sense of betrayal. But on reflection, he comes to terms with this new truth. He decides that since he is no longer the children’s head coach, he will take his place in the audience and cheer for his children as a fan.
He goes back to the stadium and in a tearful reunion with his children, accepts the new position that has been accorded to him.
He realises that things have changed dramatically in India. The burden of filial relations that constrained him do not crush the youngsters of today. Instead, his children refuse to allow anything to limit their calling, even going so far as to question it. The father is in awe of his children’s almost effortless embracing of their destiny. In the final moments of the movie, he has only great things to say of the coach: ‘It was my dream, but you helped them achieve it.’
In my movie, there are no villains and the coach definitely isn’t one. Instead, like life, the villain is the fear and insecurity that Aamir wrestles with. It is these that keep him from achieving his potential, though he projects them on his father.
The movie then becomes about the realisation that recognising fear and walking through it is when you learn that there are no villains outside. And to succeed – whether in Dangal or in life – one must wrestle their inner demons.