Friday, October 30, 2020
Home Opinions Is Mahavir Singh Phogat of 'Dangal' a misogynist character?

Is Mahavir Singh Phogat of ‘Dangal’ a misogynist character?

While there is a debate on whether to boycott or not boycott Dangal due to Aamir Khan’s comments, there is another debate going on about the movie that is more about the story rather than the story teller.

This debate is whether Aamir Khan has sent out a message through Dangal that is directly in conflict with what he sent out in 3 Idiots i.e. whether children should be allowed to chase their own dreams or forced to follow the dreams of their fathers.

Some are arguing, and it may appear right, that in Dangal, Aamir Khan is playing character of a father who thrusts his unfulfilled dream of winning an Olympic medal upon his daughters, and that this is not the same father of 3 Idiots who lets his son drop out of engineering course to pursue photography.

Not just that, since this time it’s daughters and not sons, there is a bonus criticism about sexism and patriarchy too. For example, this particular criticism:

Dangal review by Huffington Post
Fair criticism?

The above article is quite critical of Aamir and at one place it says “this film is not about the women, but about one man driven by his male ego.

Is this a fair criticism?

Outwardly it may seem so, but this criticism suffers from the weakness many people, incidentally on the ‘left’ side of the ideological divide, have shown on other occasions when they have failed to look at a character beyond their own binaries.

Such critics are so obsessed with their own idea of political correctness that they fail to notice the nuances. They will be particularly upset at reading this, because they usually consider themselves the masters of understanding nuances.

This failure to notice the nuances was limited to misinterpreting and misdiagnosing Hindu epics earlier as they raced to apply their modern “progressive” standards on events that took place thousands of years ago, but it now appears to be percolating to even Bollywood movies.

In case you are wondering what is being argued, recall the criticism of Lord Rama, who is often abused as “misogynist” by some because he made Sita-mata go through agnipariksha and later separated from her because a dhobi (washer-man) raised some objections.

Sounds pretty fair on modern feminist standards, right? But the nuance missed here is when people confuse, or maybe deliberately ignore, that Ramayana is not a husband-wife story. The character of Lord Rama is playing roles of that of a son, a husband, a king, a warrior, a brother, and so on – and more often than not, these roles are in conflict with each other.

When Rama decides to listen to an ordinary washer-man and “abandons” his wife, he takes that decision as a ruler, not as a husband. As a ruler, he had to bow down to what his subjects felt. His decision to separate from Sita was to show that a king in Ram Rajya has to follow the same moral and civil codes that an ordinary washer-man has to. Rama upheld standards of a society – which surely were not “progressive” when viewed from modern feminist standards – because upholding those standards was supposed to be his dharma as a ruler.

Ramayana and other epics are full of such nuanced characters and events, but they are often critiqued through modern binaries and judgments are passed over characters. We had earlier shown how Goswami Tulsidas is similarly attacked with critics paying no attention to the nuances of a character he developed.

Bringing down Hindu epics is a form of virtue signalling that helps people show that they are “progressive”, and it appears that we have seen the same virtue signalling when it comes to criticism of Aamir’s character in Dangal.

The character that is being claimed as that of a person full with male ego and a father thrusting upon his dreams upon his daughters, is actually the character of a Coach.

When Mahavir Singh Phogat – the character in the movie, not the real person – forces his daughters through rigorous exercises and even punishments, it is not a father thrusting his unfulfilled desires on his daughter but a coach determined to make his students shine on international levels.

This is clear from the storyline of the movie where one can see that once Phogat becomes the father of a fourth girl child, he buries his dream of seeing his son win a medal. Does it means misogyny because he wanted a son? Again, the context has to be seen. We are talking about Haryana – a state with one of the worst sex-ratio and not really known for gender equality especially in the time the movie is set. And add to that wrestling – a sport not that well identified with women.

He picks up all his trophies and puts them in a box, symbolising how he he has given up on this one wish. It is only later, when he is told that his daughters handed a solid beating to two boys, the coach in him spots talent in the little girls. And then the man in him realises that it is not only boys who can win medals. That is not exactly misogyny, but realisation about gender equality.

It is not like those girls wanted to be singers or dancers while their father decided to make them wrestlers. Do we not marvel when we hear about how athletes in other countries are spotted young and trained for big events? And did we not hear stories about how Pullela Gopichand, coach of PV Sindhu who won a Silver medal at the Olympics earlier this year, confiscated her mobile phone, made her go through rigorous exercises, didn’t allow her to meet friends, banned her having ice-cream, and all such stuff? Was Gopichand driven by some male ego or was it the determination of a coach to see his student excel?

That is exactly what Aamir’s character in the movie does. He is playing the role of a disciplined coach, not of an egoist father. In one of the scenes from the movies this dichotomy is brought to the fore. After a hard day’s training, while his daughters are asleep, the tough cookie Phogat crumbles, and is seen pressing his daughters’ tired legs. That’s when he remarks: “I can be either their father or their coach at any one point of time, not both.”

This is the nuanced character that Aamir Khan is playing, A coach who wants to see his students push the envelope, thus thrusting them into a world of trial and hard work, yet a caring and loving father, who worries for his daughters too.

Criticism and analysis of a character always enriches and extends the experience of watching a movie or reading a novel, but when some obvious nuances are missed in such criticism, one wonders if it was genuine criticism, or just a virtue signalling.

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Rahul Roushanhttp://www.rahulroushan.com
A well known expert on nothing. Opinions totally personal. RTs, sometimes even my own tweets, not endorsement. #Sarcasm. As unbiased as any popular journalist.

Related Articles

Trending now

The Hindu spreads fake news about China occupying new regions in Pangong Tso just a month after making money by publishing Chinese propaganda

The Hindu had quoted an ex-BJP MP to claim that Chinese forces have occupied finger 2 and 3 on north bank of Pangong Tso lake

Munger SP Lipi Singh’s claims shattered, CISF report says Police first opened fire against Hindus, 13 bullets fired

Munger SP Lipi Singh had earlier defended the police violence on Durga Procession attendees in Munger and claimed that Hindus had fired, not the police

AMU students, who wanted to dig ‘Hindutva ki kabar’, now protest against French President for standing up to Jihad after ‘blasphemy’ beheadings

After chanting against Hindus the students in AMU have now started a protest French President Emmanuel Macron for his remarks against Islamic terrorism

Congress MLA organises protest of thousands of Muslims against French President and his ‘Islamophobia’ after his citizens were beheaded for ‘blasphemy’

Congress MLA Arif Masood organised and led a protest supporting terrorism in the name of Islam that led to the beheading of Samuel Paty and others in France.

As Pakistan minister admits role in Pulwama attack, Rajdeep Sardesai rushes to his rescue, allows him to ‘clarify’, attack India instead, NDTV follows suit

India Today and NDTV come together to rescue Pakistan minister Fawad Chaudhry after he admitted Terroristan's role in Pulwama attack

Former PM of Malaysia goes from talking about women’s ‘secret place’ to inciting genocide for insulting Islam in single tweet thread: Read details

Mahathir Mohamad justified the attacks on French people by Islamist terrorist saying that mere boycott could not compensate the wrongs of France.

Recently Popular

‘Modi, Modi’ slogans inside Pakistan National Assembly: Here is what happened

The name of PM Modi echoed on Monday as members of Pakistan's opposition members chanted 'Modi, Modi' slogans inside Pakistan National assembly

Chinese state-run channel shows the portrait of Prophet Muhammad, netizens ask if Muslim nations will boycott China

Arslan Hidayat, an Uyghur Rights Activist, took to Twitter shared a video of a Chinese TV series on Twitter in which it was depicted that an Arab ambassador visiting China during the rule of Tang dynasty gifts a portrait of the Prophet Muhammad to the Chinese emperor.

‘His legs were shivering, head was sweating fearing attack by India’: Pakistani opposition leader reveals why Imran Khan govt had released Abhinandan Varthaman

PML(N) leader Ayaz Sadiq said that Pakistani Foreign Minister had feared that India would attack Pakistan if Abhinandan is not returned

Watch: Pro-India accounts disrupt Pakistan’s anti-India online meeting on Zoom, play pro-Hindu and Indian nationalistic songs

Indic social media users caused embarrassment to Pakistani authorities and diplomats after they raided their online event on zoom

Here are ‘liberals’ who hailed Imran Khan’s benevolence for releasing Abhinandan, while he was shaking in his boots, thinking of Modi going to war

The usual suspects declared Imran Khan 'won' despite the fact that it was Indian Armed Forces that destroyed terror camps in Pakistan.

France: Three killed, reportedly beheaded by an Islamic terrorist shouting Allahu Akbar at a Church in Nice

Three people have died of which at least two are reportedly beheaded in a terrorist attack at Notre Dame Church in Nice, France.
- Advertisement -

Subramanian Swamy condemns the ‘knifing and beheading as retaliation’ in France, however, his condemnation comes with a big ‘but’: Read details

Subramanian Swamy on Friday condemned the beheading of innocent French citizens a day earlier by an Islamic terrorist.

The Hindu spreads fake news about China occupying new regions in Pangong Tso just a month after making money by publishing Chinese propaganda

The Hindu had quoted an ex-BJP MP to claim that Chinese forces have occupied finger 2 and 3 on north bank of Pangong Tso lake

Berlin: Amidst chants ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘La Ilaha Illalaha’, Muslims protest against President Emmanuel Macron after France faces Islamist attacks

The crowd of radical Muslims in Berlin, Germany, chanted 'Allahu Akbar' and 'La Ilaha Illalaha’ to protest against the French President

France wakes up to the menace of ‘Islamo-leftism’, an alliance between leftists and Islamists that has been attacking India for decades

The French education minister spoke out on the dangers of Islamo-leftism in the aftermath of the beheading of Samuel Paty.

Pakistan court gives custody of 13-year-old Christian girl, who was kidnapped, raped and converted to Islam, to 44-year-old abductor Ali Azhar: Details

In a startling decision, a Pakistan court has granted the custody of a 13-year-old girl Christian girl to her 44-year-old abductor, Ali Azhar.

Nikita Tomar murder: Main accused Tauseef wants to be shifted to Bhondsi jail in Gurugram where his uncle, a hardened criminal is lodged

The SIT formed to investigate the Nikita Tomar murder case will be filing the charge-sheet in the coming 12 days

Munger SP Lipi Singh’s claims shattered, CISF report says Police first opened fire against Hindus, 13 bullets fired

Munger SP Lipi Singh had earlier defended the police violence on Durga Procession attendees in Munger and claimed that Hindus had fired, not the police

After Pakistan Minister’s Pulwama attack confession, India to approach International Court of Justice, seeks blacklisting of Pakistan by FATF

India is planning to approach International Court of Justice on the basis of admission on Pulwama attack made by Pakistan Minister

AIMPLB asks Muslims to boycott French products days after President Emmanuel Macron vowed to fight radical Islamic terror

AIMPLB said that freedom of expression is a right, however, one is not allowed to insult the sentiments of others in the name of freedom

AMU students, who wanted to dig ‘Hindutva ki kabar’, now protest against French President for standing up to Jihad after ‘blasphemy’ beheadings

After chanting against Hindus the students in AMU have now started a protest French President Emmanuel Macron for his remarks against Islamic terrorism

Connect with us

245,563FansLike
471,316FollowersFollow
19,500SubscribersSubscribe