Courtesy of UTV Motion Pictures
First they ignore you
Then they laugh at you
Then they fight you
Then you win
Cast: Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Girish Kulkarni, Aparshakti Khurrana, Sanya Malhotra
Director: Nitesh Tiwari (Hindustantimes, 2017)
When I first heard about this film, it is very popular among the Chinese social media circle: Wechat friend’s zone. At that time, I was wondering how an Indian film makes such a noise in our community. Curiosity drives me to watch this film several weeks later, and it is really impressive. All right enough for my story, let’s begin.
Dangal is a 2016 Indian Hindi-language film directed by Nitesh Tiwari with the genre: drama and sports. Meanwhile, this film is inspired from a real life story which depicts how a notorious perfectionist father Mahavir Singh Phogat (Khan) coaches his daughters to practice dangal, and finally win the gold medals in Commonwealth games. However, the story is always not that simple. Under the fierce competition and pounding orchestral blasts that took place in a small town in Haryana, Tiwari also put some reflections of Indian society behind the scene, for instance, gender inequality and poverty.
Mahavir Singh Phoga (Khan) is a talented wrestler from a small town in Haryana who has won the gold medal in national championship of Dangal but can’t afford to continue his career in the international arena. His dream is to earn a gold medal for his country. Meanwhile, Haryana is known as one of India’s most backward state in terms of gender equality. Status shows that only 60 percent of female are literate and an abnormal high record of female feticide, and it seems to be the last place to spawn female athletes (the Hollywood Reporter, 2017). Comparing to this, it is very much like rural Chinese villages that gender bias is a critical issue. By saying this, back to several years ago, a large proportion of girls in rustic area are forced into arranged marriage by their parents at age of 18 or even younger. Many of them are taught to stay at home, look after their kids, cook meals and wash clothes; in traditional Chinese terms, it is called “ xiang fu jiao zi” ( understand how to meet husbands’ needs and look after their children). This ideology is much like what happens in rural Indian areas. In a scene when two girls sneaked out to their friend’s wedding, Geeta and Babita complained to the 14-year-old bride that how their father is too strict and trains them without a stop. “I wish my father was like yours” said the bride, “I’m going to cook and clean for a man I’ve never met. At least yours is preparing you for your future” (Ibid). Thereafter, this conversation inspired Geeta and Babita to work harder in dangal. And this kind of housewife life is highly attached to most Indian females, it is not based on their own decisions but fixed destiny. What’s more frightening is that there are not many other choices left for them and a lot of them choose this kind of life according to their own free wills (Douban, 2017). And it is quite hard to imagine when this is put in a contemporary modernized society such as Australia.
Meanwhile, back to the scene, what impressed me most is that when in the final battle, Geeta talked to her father for advices as she trusted him more than her coach. Her father Mahavir (Khan) told her that “facing this Australian rival is very challenging, you need to use some astonishing and creative techniques. And only the winner will be cherished by the public. However, remember, you are not only fighting for yourself. You are also fighting for these little girls sitting beside you and millions of Indian women, those who are disguised by the patriarchic society”. I was quite touched by this conversation, and finally Geeta won her gold medal in 2010 Commonwealth Game. It inspires thousands of Indian women to participate in dangal training as it provides an alternative for them to pursue their dreams, much like what happened with NBA in US for the poor black hood kids. In my opinion, as the society advances, females deserve to be treated fairly in all fields. It is quite devastating for me to see how certain communities such as rural places in China and India to treat our girls. They have little options and less chance for education when compared to male. Life is quite unchangeable for them and all the struggles they did make little impacts within their local communities. Our girls’ voices need to be heard.
To put a short summary, a good film triggers viewers’ shared feelings despite our dispersed backgrounds; a great film inspires real changes in society. In my opinion, dangal is a great film that eventually I hope will bring some real changes to the Indian society in the near future.
Kay Jingkai Xu (06/17/2017)
- Douban, 2017, Bo, Shuai jiao ba baba, yi bu ling ren e’xin de zuo pin, Available at:
- Hindustantimes, 2017, Dangal movie review: Aamir Khan and Phogat sisters’ story win the bout, Available at:
- The Hollywood Reporter, 2017, ‘Dangal’ (‘Wrestling Match’): Film Review, Available at: