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.