Dangal (transl. ’Wrestling competition’) is a 2016 Indian Hindi-language biographical sports drama film directed by Nitesh Tiwari and produced by Aamir Khan, under his studio Aamir Khan Productions with UTV Motion Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures India. Loosely based on the Phogat family, Aamir Khan stars as Mahavir Singh Phogat, a pehlwani amateur wrestler who trains his daughters Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari to become India’s first world-class female wrestlers. Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra portray the adult versions of the two Phogat sisters, Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar their younger versions, Sakshi Tanwar their mother, and Aparshakti Khurana their cousin.
The development of the film began in early 2013 when Tiwari began writing the screenplay. In 2014, Khan had interviewed the Phogat sisters on his talk show Satyamev Jayate, before Tiwari approached him with the script months later, after which Khan became the lead actor and producer. Set primarily in the Indian state of Haryana, principal photography commenced in September 2015 in the neighbouring Punjab. Satyajit Pande served as the cinematographer and Ballu Saluja as the editor. Pritam scored the film’s background music and for its soundtrack, lyrics for which were written by Amitabh Bhattacharya. Kripa Shankar Bishnoi, a coach with the Indian women’s wrestling team, trained Khan and the cast for the wrestling sequences.
After a North American premiere on 21 December 2016, Dangal was released worldwide on 23 December and received positive reviews from critics; praise centered on the film’s “honest” depiction of a real-life story and Khan’s performance. It was also screened at the Beijing International Film Festival in April 2017 and second BRICS festival in June 2017. At the 62nd Filmfare Awards, it won four awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Khan) and Best Action (Shyam). At the 64th National Film Awards, Wasim won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Geeta’s younger self. Overseas, Dangal won the inaugural Best Asian Film award at Australia’s 7th AACTA Awards, 2017’s Best Foreign Film and Top Foreign Actor (for Aamir Khan) from China’s Douban Film Awards, and two Jackie Chan Action Movie Awards, and was nominated in the Asian Brilliant Stars category at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival.
The film was a record-breaking commercial success, becoming the highest-grossing Indian film ever, the fifth highest grossing non-English film ever, and the highest-grossing sports film worldwide. Produced on a budget of ₹70 crore (US$9.8 million), the film grossed ₹2,024–2,100 crore (US$311–330 million) worldwide, including $216.2 million in China, becoming one of the country’s top 20 highest-grossing films and the highest-grossing non-English foreign film in China. The film has also been watched more than 400 million times on Chinese streaming platforms.
Mahavir Singh Phogat, a former amateur wrestler trained in the pehlwani style of Indian wrestling, was a national wrestling champion residing in Balali. He was forced by his father to give up the sport in order to obtain gainful employment. Dejected that he could not win a medal for his country, he vows that his unborn son will. Disappointed upon having four daughters, he gives up hope. But when his older daughters Geeta and Babita come home after beating up two boys in response to derogatory comments, he realises their potential to become wrestlers and begins coaching them.
His methods seem harsh, including grueling early morning workouts and short haircuts. Despite facing backlash from the villagers, he goes ahead with them, training them in his makeshift mud pit. Initially, the girls resent their father for his treatment but soon realise that he cares for their future. Motivated, they willingly participate in wrestling tournaments where they defeat boys. Unable to afford wrestling mats, he uses mattresses and trains them in freestyle wrestling to prepare them for competitive events. Geeta goes on to win the junior and senior championships at the state and national level before heading to the National Sports Academy in Patiala to train for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games.
Once there, Geeta makes friends and begins to disregard the discipline she has been taught by Mahavir. Her coach Pramod Kadam’s (Girish Kulkarni) training methods and wrestling techniques completely differ from her father’s. As a result, she loses every match at the international level. During a visit home, she defeats a visibly exhausted Mahavir in a ferocious bout after mocking him. Babita reminds Geeta of her mistake and that she should respect Mahavir. Soon after, Babita wins the national championship and follows Geeta to the academy. After the two sisters have an emotional conversation in which Babita provides her encouragement, Geeta tearfully makes peace with Mahavir.
Before the Commonwealth Games, Pramod forces Geeta to compete in the 51 kg weight class rather than her usual 55 kg. Irritated upon learning this, Mahavir goes to Patiala with his nephew Omkar (Aparshakti Khurana) and begins coaching the girls secretly. Learning about this, and furious with Mahavir’s interference, Pramod wants the girls expelled; the sports authority issues a warning but allows them to continue. Mahavir is barred from entering the academy, and the girls are forbidden to go out. Determined to continue assisting his daughters, Mahavir obtains tapes of Geeta’s previous unsuccessful bouts and coaches her by pointing out her errors over the phone.
At the Games, competing in the 55 kg class, Geeta eases her way into the final. Mahavir constantly contradicts Pramod’s instructions while sitting in the audience, and she follows her father’s instructions instead. Just before the gold medal bout, jealous Pramod conspires to lock Mahavir in a closet.
In the bout, Geeta manages to win the first session but loses the second. Trailing 1–5 in the final session and with nine seconds left, she recalls the tactics taught by her father and a 5-pointer, and executes it on her opponent in the final three seconds, taking the score to 6–5 in her favour, thus winning the session, and the bout 2–1. In the process, she becomes the first Indian female wrestler to win gold at the Games. Mahavir returns just in time to embrace his daughters, frustrating Pramod’s hopes of obtaining credit before the news media.
Aamir Khan as Mahavir Singh Phogat
Sakshi Tanwar as Daya Shobha Kaur, Mahavir’s wife
Fatima Sana Shaikh as Geeta Phogat, Mahavir’s oldest daughter
Zaira Wasim as Young Geeta Phogat
Sanya Malhotra as Babita Kumari, Mahavir’s second daughter
Suhani Bhatnagar as Young Babita Kumari
Aparshakti Khurana as Omkar
Ritwik Sahore as Young Omkar
Girish Kulkarni as Pramod Kadam, coach at the National Sports Academy
Vivan Bhatena as Harkinder, Mahavir’s colleague
Kaustubh Pile as Male fighter no.2
Shishir Sharma as Head of Department of the National Sports Academy
Meenu Prajapati as Jasmeet, Geeta’s friend at the National Sports Academy
Badrul Islam as Shamim, Owner of meat shop
Karmveer Choudhary as Mahaveer Singh Phogat’s father
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