Dangal: A political film

Radhakanta Barik

In the present Commonwealth Games at Goldcoast the way Punam Yadav won the gold medal in the women’s 69kg weight lifting explains the agonies and pleasures of a family undergoing struggle to make their daughters successful in the Dangal film. Here her mother speaks out from rural Varanasi her problems in taking care of 5daughters and two sons depending on land. Punam used to collect fodder specifically grass from the field for their cows and buffaloes. Everybody contributes labour in running the family to keep the above subsistence. She has experienced the patriarchal and poverty of rural UP which has a similarity in Dangal. Punam goes to the city to stay in the hostel for learning the abc of weightlifting game. Her agony and pain in learning a game to do well in a career in opposition to our class and caste society of UP one can compare with the girls in Dangal who underwent the similar suffering to achieve the victory in Haryana.  Dangal remains the most successful Bollywood movie for drawing the crowd in India and China. Both these countries having a majority of rural people must have suffered from their privations in educating their children and in making them skilled human resources. Both these countries are in the process of urbanization and industrialization needs more skilled people who are coming from rural hinterland. No film has been able to capture their sufferings in both emotionally and financially which has happened in the film Dangal. Amir Khan Stands for the first generation of parents who wishes to educate their children. It is more difficult to educate their daughters as our society remains a patriarchal and a threat to their girls. Their parents must be facing double problems both from the society and then from their own financial position. The backdrop of Haryana explains the worst gender inequality. Amir Khan, as father of three young girls from a distant village without any sports facilities has to suffer the worst. He is able to overcome these difficulties and produce the Olympian sports women. There are thirty Olympian women in this state. Amir Khan through his body language speaks a lot more than his words. This remains a classic film and a political picture as showing power structure of our society. There are many layered power structure in Haryana society.

Dangal brings out a cinematic narrative explaining and articulating anxieties of rural people after Independence. Those who belong to first generation of learners can realize the same anxieties today.  Our parents suffered yesterday. Indian national movement led by Gandhi and Nehru created an image of liberated rural India but there was no system in delivering answers to these problems. They have created public institutions, schools, colleges and sports complex. Accessibility to these institutions is based on the principle of universality and merit. This created a lot of hope to rural people.

This creates hope for anybody who wants to be somebody.  Anybody can be successful in any field. But success of any body is the product of interplay of family contribution, institutional capability on one side and on the other side dedication and commitment of an aspiring individual. On the post Independent canvas of India the hopes and aspirations of rural people in general and people of Haryana in particular have been placed. A generation has sacrificed for making their children in achieving some success in any field. They undergo horrendous sufferings which need no description.

They face problems from their social structure. Traditional society puts brakes on aspirations of people in the name of tradition or morality. This makes people to think twice to go ahead in their planning and action. There can be disruption from the external forces. These forces work as obstacles on the path of development. Individual turns into a microcosm of social forces. He or she becomes victim and accused in the process of realization of one’s dreams. Sometimes she is accused and sometimes she is the victim as the patriarchal social order pushes you in both ways. These values are being sustained by our high cultural traditions where our religious texts and moral compass responsible   for keeping women subordinated to its male counterparts. Dangal as a text carries these elements of sustaining patriarchal values. But there is a sub text which questions these values. In a family of three daughters is being looked down by local social   moral order. The sub text questions these values and educating their daughters in both physical and mental context. Our educational system gives more emphasis to intellectual activity rather than physical aspect. By encouraging both provides a holistic view of a child’s development.

Sports activity is getting low priority from the government. There is a dialogue in the story of the film regarding funding of sports of activity. The staff gets a major portion of the budget than the sports persons. This is a subtle criticism of government sports policy. In rural society when children go for doing physical exercise there is a caricature by cultural milieu of the place. Running around the village is being looked down by the rural folk and state both.  Despite institutional and social obstacles children do come up because of their parental efforts. Her parents have got autonomy within the institutional framework. This autonomy has worked. Both father and mother worked hard to educate their daughters by doing a budgetary cutting of their house hold expenditure. But their commitment to children’s education has been given a high priority. This text is a subtle comment on our system of administration that old and child need attention of a family. State does not provide any social security system which can protect child and old.

Once truth is realized by parents then they have to run from pillar to post for their child. They have to run from town to town for educating the child. Even the child has joined the best teaching place but does not get due encouragement because of low status and class bias of our teachers against the child. These biases and prejudices are so strong that they get wrong lessons from the teacher and coach and discouragement from the administration. Parents have to take pains in teaching their child with special efforts. In the process of educating the child they have to confront a hierarchy of institutions. From family to school, administration function as a hierarchy of institutions. The other government institutions provide a differential treatment to the child.

After the Film Ganga Jamuna by Dilip Kumar; Dangal a film centers around the rural India. The camera moves over the dusty land of rural society. One moves and runs over this dusty land. You can be physically strong and make you a bold soul. Despite one’s best efforts to educate their children rural people suffer in the end. In the end the family might suffer more because of institutional apathy. Some talented youths get a chance to compete on national and international level; the state shows a negative view of the process. In the end father of the child is unable to participate in process where father’s encouragement could have played a definite role in making the success a little sweeter. He is being confined to a lonely cell. This brings an important aspect of the story which explains conflict between the rural society with the modern administration which encourages only corporate houses where rural society does not have any space. Keeping the father of the girl in a lonely cell explains the pains and agony of our contemporary rural society.

Cinematic language has its own symbols and signs which have been used in a creative manner.  The film provides aesthetic pleasures to an audience. Audience moves with the pains and agonies of the actor Amir Khan. In the process their tears roll down by providing maximum pleasure in a cinematic text which satisfies the aesthetic design of the text.

Prof Radhakanta Barik is a Seniour ICSSR Fellow, IHD in Delhi

Apr 16, 2018

Prof Radhakanta Barik [email protected]

Your Comment if any