It's almost half-an-hour into the movie. Young Geeta and Babita Phogat (Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar) have clinched a few Rs 50 and 100 currency notes at various dangals (matches) in and around their village Bhiwani in Haryana. With no women wrestlers to compete against, the girls are wrestling with boys. The two girls have been pushed in to wrestling by their father, Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir Khan) after his daughters thrashed two neighbourhood boys.
The man of the house, also a national wrestling champion who couldn't live his international dreams, realises that he could realise his dreams through his daughters. The girls resist in the beginning. They don't want to wake up at five in the morning for the training. They don't want their hair cut short. If you are rationale enough and the emotional bouts in the film haven't consumed you yet, you may, at one point, think why are the girls not given a choice? Couldn't they have a say in what they want to become? Is it necessary that a parent's dreams can only be fulfilled by chasing the same ambition that the parent had?
It's the first show of the film on a Friday morning in a theatre in the Mumbai suburbs. Considering it is early morning in a city that's known for sleeping late, the occupancy could have been low, but it is more than 50 per cent. The buzz and the pre-release reviews have worked in the film's favour. On screen, Geeta and Babita have decided to trespass their father, drop the practice session and attend a friend's wedding. An angry Mahavir Phogat pulls them up in front of everybody as he discovers his daughters enjoying the ceremonies. Embarrassed and hurt, the two girls criticise their father in front of their bride friend, who, visibly not happy with getting married, says, “kam se kam unhone tumhe aulad ka darja toh diya.” After all, the daughters in India have to fight to live a life they rightfully deserve.
Director Nitesh Tiwari's script, written along with Piyush Gupta, Shreyas Jain and Nikhil Mehrotra, has done a good job portraying what happens around us most of the time. The victory is in making it light-hearted even as emotions and the hunger for the gold grows. The script changes tone in the latter half when there are desperate attempts to let the senior Phogat, essayed by Khan, be in the limelight as the coach (Girish Kulkarni) is made the villain. The shortcomings of the Indian system could have been explored in better ways, but if this is what lets the hero (Khan) be the hero, then that be it.
The film, however, wins in the way it portrays each of its characters with meticulous planning. The girls have been trained well to wrestle and thus no compromises have been made in showing a fight that looks real. Khan, like always, remains true to his character, portraying an aging father and dedicated coach. Both younger and older Geeta and Babita (Fatima Sana Sheikh and Sanya Malhotra) have worked hard to achieve the best to portray their characters.
While usually films end with one final message, this had quite a few—put the country on top, parents always have a few more survival tricks than you, and only you and your gut feeling can decide what's right for you.
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Starring: Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Sheikh, Sanya Malhotra, Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar