Cast: Aamir Khan, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Sakshi Tanwar, Vivan Bhatena, Aparshakti
Khurana, Zaira Wasim, Ritwik Soore, Suhani Bhatnagar, Girish Kulkarni
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
A rare double win in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Delhi, by two siblings Geeta Kumari Phogat and Babita Kumari Phogat becomes strong reason for a cinematic biopic on the legendary coach and former National champion Mahavir Singh Phogat, their father.
This Aamir Khan Productions’ film first delves into Mahavir Singh’s post National champion life, taking us along on his decision to give up the unyielding sport of wrestling for a secure job and family obligations, his disappointment in breeding four daughters instead of the son that he desired to carry forward his sporting lineage towards International glory and his eventual recapitulation in accepting that his daughters could and would make that dream come true.
Aamir Khan hogs the show entirely here. He ages right in front of our eyes – going from late teen to sixty (sincere body work from Aamir combined with noteworthy make-up, styling & use of prosthetics) but not necessarily in that order. Impervious to the challenges of a regimented system and blazing a unique trail, Mahavir Singh battles against family pressure and his daughters’ (Zaira Wasim , Suhani Bhatnagar) disinterest to make the seemingly impossible possible.
This part of the film feels a little fragmented putting forward contradictory belief systems in glib perfunctory fashion. There’s no growth curve, just highlights here. The pre-interval half begins with a state level champion (Vivan ‘Talaash’ Bhatena in yet another opening introductory sequence in an Aamir Khan film) picking up a fight with Mahavir Singh while the telecast of an Olympic wrestling match (commentary)is heard in the background. That’s how we get to know about Mahavir’s national champion status and his desire for a male progeny to wrestle beyond his footsteps.
The second half though packs much more of a punch. It plays out interestingly with the young teens Geeta Kumari & Babita coerced into taking up the sport, going through the grind, reaching their teens (Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra), winning the nationals & then catapulting to the SAI facility in Patiala in order to gain International glory.
Mahavir’s distress about that is a bit of a bummer because it comes after his daughter informs him that it would be necessary to get into the SAI program for International glory. Being a National champion himself he should have known that. Infarction between Mahavir & Geeta caused by the entry of the SAI coach (Girish Kulkarni), while increasing dramatic tension doesn’t play out all that convincingly.
Neither does the issue of jealousy & credit for success that plays out in the finale have any inkling to the truth. The wrestling aspects and the uninhibited performances are the most uplifting elements of the movie. Nitesh orients us with a simplified explanation of the point system and then goes on to help us invest that part of the knowledge towards the enjoyment of the sport. The bouts are staged in such a manner that adrenaline rushes are a given.
Technicalities are also adhered to as much as possible. Junior Indian women’s wrestling team coach Kripa Shankar Patel Bishnoi’s efforts to get the actors into wrestling mode must be appreciated. Nitesh’s helming is assured. While it may not be intellectually stimulating his scriptwriting team and himself work hard to give us some extraordinary moments of power and grace. Performances all round are superb.
Ultimately this film belongs to Aamir and the girls (both sets) who play his daughters. Aamir’s big moment comes when he has to beg the SAI administration to reinstate his girls in the team while both sets of actors essaying the younger & older versions of Geeta and Babita are so breathtakingly vivid that it almost feels like we have been party to greatness. Despite the minor narrative faults, this film is a sincere, highly involving and warmly heartening experience – one that should not be missed!