To do things differently requires guts. There’s the risk of becoming an outcast, among friends, family, neighbors, strangers. But the greatest enrichments are open only to those who muster the courage to do things differently. Those, despite risk of failure and ostracism, who willingly tread the road less traveled open themselves up also to the possibility of unprecedented rewards. In Dangal, Aamir Khan portrays such a risk taker.
Sports biopics, of late, have stuck a chord in Bollywood, with the singular successes of gifted athletes who overcome tremendous obstacles – both systemic and infrastructural – to achieve international fame and success, in a country indifferent to its sporting heroes (barring cricket). After athletics and boxing, wresting’s emergence into limelight is natural. The choice of theme as such is not extraordinary. Aamir Khan’s ability to package it as a blockbuster without severely limiting the story’s honesty is. Director Nitesh Tiwari achieves that by taking some of the edge off, through humor, catchy music, high emotional content, never losing sight however of its actual intent – to narrate the tale of a father’s sincerity and passion to pursue a dream, and his daughter’s toil in response, and their eventual success to unprecedented rewards, which shine through in the nearly three hours of storytelling. This, despite some preachy moments and one enforced nationalistic gesture thrown in.
Subduing his star appeal, Khan turns in a performance apt to play the aged protagonist. His co-actors deliver in cohesion to ultimately create an inspiring cinematic experience. It should please those who want a bit more out of big budget Bollywood fare, but has enough spice in the pot for the masala crowd as well. It certainly is a happy mix for the producers, if initial box office response is any indicator.