Dir: Nitesh Tiwari
Starring: Aamir Khan, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Sakshi Tanwar, Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar, Girish Kulkarni, Ritwik Sahore, Aparshakti Khurrana
Dangal isn’t quite in the upper echelon of Aamir Khan’s cinematic oeuvre but it is a fine film nevertheless and one which delivers an important message. Based on the true-life tale of Haryanvi national wrestling champion Mahavir Singh Phogat and his dream to turn his two older daughters into international medal winners in his sport, the movie follows a familiar pattern for sports-based movies. There is the early heartbreak and the sacrifice and the physical effort to overcome great odds and finally achieve sporting triumph. However, it is the little details that fill in the canvas and the terrific cast that propel the movie to its satisfying conclusion.
Leading the way is Aamir Khan himself in the role of the aging wrestler and demanding father who is intent on pushing his young daughters to sporting glory, trying to balance (and not always successfully) the challenges of both fatherhood and coaching. Aamir here (for the bulk of the movie) is aging and greying and overweight, a permanent frown on his face and determination in his eyes. His performance brings the desired authenticity to the film as much as the Haryanvi locale and vernacular and the terrific wrestling sequences do. Aamir is given more than solid support by Fatima Sana Sheikh and Sanya Malhotra as Mahavir’s daughters Geeta and Babita Phogat and Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar as their younger counterparts, along with Sakshi Tanwar as Mahavir’s long-suffering but ultimately supportive wife. In fact, the latter half of the movie is more or less carried by Fatima Sana Sheikh as the movie begins focusing on her sporting exploits and she delivers magnificently both on the acting and wrestling fronts (the bouts feel absolutely authentic).
My favourite scene in the whole movie is an informal wrestling match between father and daughter that has so much more going on underneath – the simmering resentments, the regrets, the ever-constant tug-of-war of love and control between parents and children and so on. There are enough character touches such as these with just right doses of humour at the right times to keep you engaged throughout despite some heavy-handed plotting conveniences and some lax editing.
However, more important than the movie itself is the strong message (and a much needed one for overtly patriarchal societies) that it delivers so successfully: women can do anything and are to be respected and appreciated and loved for what they are and who they are and what they have the potential to achieve.
Cut to chase: Strong movie with an even stronger message.
Dir: Stephen Spielberg
Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton
The BFG is based on Roald Dahl’s gigantic best-seller of the same name, released in 1982 and selling more than 37 million copies (and counting). It tells the tale of lonely 10-year old Sophie (Ruby Barnhill, quite delightful) who is whisked away from a London orphanage by a huge giant (a pixelated Mark Rylance, also quite wonderful) with colossal ears to Giant Country for fear of being discovered.
But the giant turns out to be not only big but also friendly (hence “BFG”) unlike his even larger kin who love nothing more than to eat little children. He’s also, literally, a dream-catcher, bottling up dreams of both adults and kids and putting them to good use later and he and Sophie strike up an unexpected friendship. However, danger lurks in the form of the other giants and Sophie comes up with a royal plan involving the Queen (Penelope Wilton of Downton Abbey fame) to ensure her safety and that of the BFG.
Stephen Spielberg manages to translate a lot of the magic and warmth of Dahl to the big screen. But not only does he smooth out some of Dahl’s rough edges, the lurking darkness and weirdness ever-present in the author’s works, but he also needed to trim some of the fat of the scenes and not be carried away with the CGI-created marvelous visuals being put on the screen. Still, the movie provides a winning combination of humour and charm (and some thrills and a few chills) to make it neat little entertainment (on a big scale – Spielberg doesn’t do small) for the whole family.
Cut to chase: Big friendly family entertainment.
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Rating system: *Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection