Rethinking Dhangal !

 

Dhangal is a biographical sports drama.  

In this film, Amar Khan as Mahavir Singh Phogat plays the role of a coach in wrestling. He trained his daughters (Geeta and Babita) to become world class champions. Mahavir singh himself was a wrestler who gives up wrestling profession because of the unavoidable circumstances of employment and his dream of winning a gold medal for his country was shattered. However, he vows that his son will.

Dhangal in the light of philosophy

I believe our philosophical training enable us to reflect and interpret the film from philosophical perspectives. To me, this could be the rationale behind such endeavors. If not, watching a movie would be more oriented towards fun and aesthetics entertainment. As students’ of philosophy, we should also look at such situation with a critical eye.

According to my observations Dhangal has both the positive and negative aspects. In this connection, I would like to address and explore both the positive and negative aspects from an existential standpoint. 

I observe that Dhangal begins with despair and disappointment because of two reasons. a) Mahavir Singh’s unsatisfied dream of winning a gold medal became his source of melancholy. b)  Mahivir was expecting and craving a son. But he was extremely disappointed when his wife gave birth to daughters.

Before portraying how Dhnagal is philosophically problematic. I would like to unmask its positive aspects.

From the optimistic standpoint, I observe that Dhangal is women centered. Dhangal represents a particular society which has strict norms and customs where girl children were not treated with dignity and equality. This observation is based on the statement of a bride who has become victim of child marriage. As the film unfolds, Geeta and Babita were complaining about their father in front of a gloomy bride, and immediately when the bride spoke to them they came to realize that he is the only man in that society, who values their lives.  He brought the notion of equality in the society and provided a platform for women in sports.

From the optimistic standpoint, I observe that Dhangal is women centered. Dhangal represents a particular society which has strict norms and customs where girl children were not treated with dignity and equality. This observation is based on the statement of a bride who has become victim of child marriage. As the film unfolds, Geeta and Babita were complaining about their father in front of a gloomy bride, and immediately when the bride spoke to them they came to realize that he is the only man in that society, who values their lives.  He brought the notion of equality in the society and provided a platform for women in sports.

A critical overview:

I believe human being is an individual, a concrete being irrespective of its gender difference. It is the only unique being with the distinctive features of freedom, subjectivity and individuality. The philosophical problems and existential crisis emerges when human’s individuality is robbed, subjectivity reduced, and freedom abrogated.  

I proceed with the following observation. Dhangal portrays women upliftment and attempts to accentuate the notion of equality. But on the other hand, the movie depicts an authoritative role played by Mahavir and simply neglects a mother’s role in the lives of their daughters.

 Let’s us examine some of the dialogues and songs in the movie.

 Mahivir  .. “sona, sona hota hai , chahiye woh chora jeete ya choory. Gold is gold whether a girl  or a boy wins”.

Mahavir continues .. “aj sai tum dono wrestler ki zindagi jiyo ge. From today you will both lead the life of wrestler”

His wife no doubt slams Mahavir by sayings that.. “Medal k khatir choriyo ki zindagi barbaad mat karo, do not ruin the girls life for your dream” but her words was given a deaf ear.

Song  ..apno pai sitam gairo pai karam aye baba hamare yeh zulm na kara messiah for the rest a terror for your own  ohh!  Baba, do not put us this torture….. and so on…

I observe that for Mahavir, a gold medal was more important and significant than his daughter’s choices and wishes.

I found Mahavir’s personality cunning and selfish. Mahavir was very disappointed until he realized that his daughters were capable to become wrestlers. In order to fulfill his goal in life, he trained and raised his daughters with predetermined goal and with a fixed meaning. They have been caged within strict wrestling tenets, forcefully chopped off their long hair and strictly suppressed their appetite for food as well. It is according to Kierkegaard, “a crazy upbringing”. Mahavir did not allow his daughters to exercise their freedom, to choose what they want out of life, to make their own decisions in life etc. Rather, he imposed strict disciplinary method and surveillance. Only when she fulfills his dream of winning a gold medal for her country, Mahavir told Geeta that he is proud of her.

The remarks above don’t imply that Mahavir being a father has no role to play in the lives of his daughters. I only attempt to show the problems thinking philosophically. To me, the core problem lies when we try to problematize the concept of human freedom, subjectivity, and individuality. Mahavir forcefully prepared their children for wrestling, in doing so Mahavir robbed their subjectivity and reduced them to objects. I argue that when a child gets readymade plans, goals and fixed action, his/her freedom is interrupted unpleasantly. I believe that if we impose readymade choices or predetermined essences in our children and do not allow them to choose their course of actions, to take decisions according to their free will, one is living someone’s life and not his/her own. Under these situations I think we are robbing the individuality of a person and reduced him/her to mere Roberts or puppets. Hence, it closes all the doors of freedom and other possibilities.

This example can be explained in many ways but I would like to make it clear paradoxically by reminding you Amar Khan’s other interesting movie Three Idiots, in which one of his friends wants to be a wild life photographer but his parents want him to become an engineer. Here, Amir Khan encourages him to live as he wants to live, and make his parents realize his choices and wishes. Under such situation, I believe that priority should be given to individual’s choice otherwise his/her existence lacks meaning.

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