[Film Review] Dangal

Position  Statement con Self declaration 

[I am restless in a sense that I find it very difficult to sit in front of a lit-up screen in a semi-dark hall with strangers or acquaintances for 160 mins or sometimes for 180 mins. This makes me disqualified for being a gentle movie watcher. This does not mean that I do not like movies. I like some movies so much that I have become unpaid researcher for them. The more I read about them, the more I find something to appreciate in the next viewing (private with air, light, coffee, cigarette, a bed / recliner and freedom to move and walk around). Or in other words, I re-discover new things in the movie and since the movie did not change in between my viewing, the “new” must have been within me. It becomes a self re-discovery. This potency alone qualifies cinema to be an Art form]

My tryst with “Dangal”

I watched the movie in a family configuration like  3 (middle aged men and women)  + 1 (senior citizen) + 3 (teen age boys and girls) + 1 (young boy) in INOX theatre and the business model of this seems to be exceedingly simple : of selling pop-corn at an eye popping price and margin. The movie expedition was funded by an US based aunt of the children, pop-corn by local currency and my going was a political move – not to offend the group and also to retain home peace.


I make my living partly by reviewing written text. Reviewing a film is not my line of work. I would rather list what came to my mind while I was there for 161 mins from 5:15 pm.

  • I was curious to find sudden interest of our country’s movie industry in wrestling. I learnt one thing as a private citizen of Calcutta that if you are not sure of of your indisposition, it must be “gas”. Similarly, if anything is difficult to grasp in India, we can pin it by a term called “politics”. I smell some politics in the sudden interest in wrestling by our movie industry’s top players and actors.
  • I failed to understand that why was the director so deeply biased to close-up shots, especially for the lead actors. One of the pivotal powers of the language of camera is to create space – this was not used at all. I am also not convinced that such close-ups allowed us to learn wrestling better because it can be argued with reason that people did not buy tickets for watching a wrestling tutorial video.
  • But this appears so because of a very dangerous disease entering our movie industry – of being cerebral, of being with a cause, of being serious, of being taken seriously. I think this as a disease not because I am against them per se but this will make the movies sterile and although the “newness” will be rewarding for sometime but the “Eastern excess” will manifest and the genes of the new customers will reject this “serious-cause-cerebral-take me seriously”  stance very shortly. This is not good for the industry in the long term.
  • The “eastern excess” I mention is about the length of our movies. Every stakeholder believes that unless something of everything is someway not cooked in a crucible called movie, the thing has not become worthy to be served. This is our culture’s greatest power as well as the greatest weakness – the art of synthesis.
  • There was the last sequence when the old wrestler was cunningly locked-in and his daughter as well as chela was fighting the decisive round in the ring, he was completely disconnected  from the outside world but the national anthem became the sentinel and the climactic moment. This reportage was not possible to be done in any Art form except performing art.
  • It is just a visual match and may be purely co-incidence – the senior wrestler’s demeanor and post-hair cut looks have a striking similarity with someone in our erstwhile ruling elite.
  • I had asked our non-adults as how they thought the movie was. This is serious question because you cannot fool children as you can fool adults by some performing art. Three children rated the movie as mediocre. Child is the father of man and I am in agreement with their verdict.

Nostalgic Thoughts

By the time the movie was nearing intermission (in our college days, this was the time to smoke the cigarette in the toilet. INOX-es are like high-security jails for everything including your person except your money for pop-corn), I was feeling nostalgic.

The nostalgia was for the sincerity of the most of the old movies of my college days – paisa usool  rated ones. They catered profound pillars of Existence in their own crude, crass, loud, unbelievably unsophisticated ways : Sex, Fight, Love, Betrayal, Hate, Music, Dance, Death, Injustice.  It was brutal, long, loud and repetitive but it was a khichdi – may not be tasteful for every tongue but  authentic.  

Movies like Dangal indicate for me an a-synthesis. The industry is trying to ape another tradition viewed through its own cultural lens and in this process distorting both and thus remaining unfaithful to  both and hence eventually becoming sterile, counterfeit and counter-productive and a-productive.






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