If you like India, wrestling, or stories of broken glass ceilings, if you like touching family stories, hilarious off-beat foreign comedy, or strangely direct musical lyrics, if you like to fantasize about beating up boys who make fun of you, if you have Netflix and three hours to spare, you should watch Dangal. Dangal is a story about India’s first wrestling gold-medalist at the international commonwealth games. Its lengthy runtime allows for a relaxed pace for a story that spans more than twenty two years, with one actor undergoing dramatic body transformations to represent their character as young and old and others played by two actors each for their child and adult versions.
For this movie, Aamir Khan, one of the most influential actors in Indian cinema today, had to be trim and muscular and soft and potbellied in the same movie. So that he could be muscular after filming was done, he asked to have the movie filmed with the later scenes first and the chronologically earlier scenes last. To transition from the old version of Mahavir Singh Phogat to the representation of himself in his prime, Khan exercised six hours a day and lost 25 kilograms (55 lbs).
Meanwhile, the four women surrounding Khan as Mahavir in the picture above actually represent just two women. Exhibiting an ahistorical ability to violate the space-time continuum, Mahavir is sitting with both the adult and child versions of each of his two wrestler daughters simultaneously. If you can’t figure out who is the adult version of whom, don’t feel bad. This is a serious problem with the movie for me. As soon as Geeta becomes an adult, none of my affection for the child version transferred. It’s not just the change in appearance that’s jarring. The kid looks like someone who will beat any boy who teases her to a bloody pulp, whereas the adult Geeta abruptly seems more delicate and gentle. It’s not enough to wreck the movie, but it’s disappointing.
Overall, I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. At about the halfway mark, when the child Geeta becomes famous, is a good midpoint that closes one challenge before the next one begins. Consider using this as an opportunity to pause the film and finish it the next day. As two normal-length movies, this is an excellent pastime for the family.
It’s the first two letters of my first name and the first four letters of my last name. It’s my username at my job. I learned this week that it is also a very common Muslim name. A coworker found this very amusing and thought that I had selected this name deliberately for myself, but it was just assigned to me automatically.
My former boss had previously identified it as something that sounded foreign, but it wasn’t until my coworker spoke to me about it that I found out that in fact it was. It comes from Arabic, and it means secure, safe, and free. Saleem Elahi is the name of a famous Pakistani cricket player, my friend tells me that Saleem Sinai is the protagonist of “Midnight’s Children,” a novel with X-Men-like themes that served as an allegory for the tumultuous colonial and early postcolonial era of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Saleem Raza is a Pakistani singer famous for his song Bedard zamanay walon nay kab dard kisi ka jaana hai among others. I would translate it from Urdu for you, but the delicate subtleties would be lost.
Actually, I have a few interesting stories regarding that general area of the world and my limited interactions with it at my work. I made chicken tikka masala on a lark a while back, and happen to bring it to work on the same day that some of my Indian coworkers happened to invite me to eat with them. They were impressed with my Indian food until I told them it was chicken tikka masala, at which point they laughed awkwardly and quickly changed the subject to Bollywood.
Bollywood, as some of you may already know, is India’s center for the creation of movies. One of my new friends from that area of the world told me that his wife of a different heritage was at first perplexed by the plots of Bollywood films, but then came to like them even more than he did. I also learned that India doesn’t have a music industry except through Bollywood. Their music industry and their movie industry are one because their movies are so musical. Saleem Raza is, in fact, both a movie and a music star from the 50s and 60s. Maybe I’ll tell people I picked my username in honor of him. Here is another one of his songs, Aye Dil Kisii kii Yaad MeiN. I regret to say that this one is also untranslatable. It would just be too much of a bastardization of the beautiful Urdu for me to try and force it into English.