co-directed Chillar Party (2011)
before directing the blockbuster Bhoothnath Returns (2014).
Even bigger success was enjoyed by Dangal (2016),
a biopic of female wrestlers Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari, which is mainly
notable for the portrait of ordinary lives in poor rural areas.
In a poor village if India a man is obsessed with wrestling.
He had to abandon his promising career as a wrestler because it was not paying his bills.
He went to work but pledged to make his son become a champion some day.
Unfortuntely his wife gave him four daughters.
The man hasn;t lost hope. When his two oldest daughters beat up kids
of the neighborhood, he decides to train them for one year and see what
the girls can achieve. They start by fighting their older cousin, a boy,
in the wheat fields nearby.
The whole village is outraged and the girls
are ridiculed by the other girls, but the man perseveres with ferocious
cruelty his training. One day the girls triy to rebel and the father
reacts by having their hairs cut. Training continues and the villager
increase their doses of jokes. The girls are ready to rebel again
when they secretely attend the wedding party of a relative and their
father comes to pick them up furious. But the bride tells them that their
destiny is far better than hers: raised to be a slave in the kitchen
and married off to a stranger. The girls suddenly appreciate that their
father cares for their future. They start training on their own.
One day the father think that the oldest, Geeta, is ready for a real
competition. They get on a truck (public tranportation in poor villages)
and travel to another town where a mud wrestling competition is being
held. The organizers initially refuse to admit her but then are convinced
by the prospect of attracting a bigger audience. A huge crowd comes to see
the girl wrestle against a boy: and she wins. Soon Geeta becomes a legend,
beating every boy. She's ready for real wrestling in gyms, and
Despite being underweight,
she wins over and over again. Finally the walls
of her father's house fill with honors and medals. His dream has come true.
But he's not satisfied: he wants her to win a medal for India, not just
for the family. She enrolls in the national training center.
The father is now jealous of the coach who trains the wrestlers.
The coach looks down on the father's provincial techniques and teaches
Geeta advanced techniques. Geeta also grows hair again.
Geeta has become independent, and, by the standards of her poor village,
During a visit home, her father catches Geeta teaching her younger sister
Babita the advanced
techniques that she has learned from the coach. Angry, the
father challenges her: she beats him. Resentful, he doesn't say aword.
Back home, Babita refuses to adopt Geeta's advanced techniques in order t
respect her father.
The father keeps training Babita and Babita follows in the footsteps of
her sister, winning the same competitions until she too becomes a national
champion. The father hangs another medal on the wall but realizes that
Babita too now has to leave for the national training center and get
trained by a professional coach.
Meanwhile, Geeta fails in her international career, losing all the
games outside India. Her coach gives upon her the way her father never did.
Geeta hasn't talked to her father since the fight.
Geeta finally phones him to apologize. Then she cuts her hair
The coach wants to demote Geeta to a lower category where she has higher
chances of winning a medal. The father, furious, packs his clothes
and travels to the city. Banned from the premises by the administration,
he starts training Geeta via phone after watching videos of her games.
The father travels to the international competition and coaches secretely
advising her to do exactly the opposite of what her coach tells her.
This way Geeta reaches the final.
Annoyed that her father keeps interfering, the coach uses a dirty trick to
keep her father locked in a room while she plays the final.
She is puzzled that he is not attending her final but eventually wins.
Her father is alone in the room and doesn't know what is happening,
but then he hears the national anthem and knows.
When her father is finally freed and sees the gold medal, she hands to him.
The dream of his life came true.
Babita would go on to win a gold medal too.