Aamir Khan’s career is full of ups and downs. In Bollywood, he started off with a bang, then succumbed to trashy movies, and now is seen as the torch-bearer of method acting and thought provoking movies. He has also been quite vocal about his social views, and even here, he has had his fair share of flip-flops. From making polarising anti-Modi comments about the 2002 riots, to mildly praising Modi in 2014, even meeting him after he became the Prime Minister, then making the infamous intolerance remark, and most recently, praising demonetisation.
The latest support for demonetisation has come just near his latest movie Dangal, and even so, a section of the “Right Wing” is vociferously campaigning for boycotting Dangal. The reason is obviously their anger at Aamir Khan for his remark that his wife had though about leaving India due to the country’s rising intolerance.
This anger, can be understood. If someone in my house says something bad for our house, and if I don’t agree with him, I am bound to be peeved. Further, boycotts are a perfectly legal method (much better than stoning theatres) to express one’s displeasure. Don’t we all have that one uncle or aunty with whom our family doesn’t have great relations, hence we all “boycott” their functions?
Aamir Khan is the lead actor as well as the producer of this movie, so if you want to send a message to Aamir Khan, this movie is tailor-made for a boycott. But the moot question you need to ask is this: Do you want to send a message to one man who offended you with one sentence? Or do you want to send a message to lakhs of men who are trapped in their patriarchal mindset, not giving the females in their family, their due?
Dangal as a movie sends all the right messages to the viewers.
Dangal shows us a male Jat from the hinterlands of Khap-infested Haryana, the state having the reputation of having the worst sex ratio in India, the state where new born girls are still murdered, is a life-long wrestler. He first wrsetles real opponents in his youth, winning most matches. He then has to wrestle with his father, but fails. As a parent, he has to wrestle with his patriarchal mindset of “sons are the best”, and then wrestle the society as a whole, and the system he is bound by, to ensure that his daughters are not left behind.
We are shown what it takes to be a girl from a village, to traverse the very tricky terrain of the inefficiency infested world of Indian sports bodies, to emerge at the pinnacle of a sport which unlike Cricket, does not get all the support it should get. And don’t forget, this is the women’s section of a forgotten sport, making it even more forgotten.
Aamir Khan plays a highly patriotic, nationalistic minded wrestler, who wants to win a medal for his country, so that his country’s national anthem rings in the pantheons of world sport.
All this is set in the 90s and early 2000s, when India was still not as progressive as it is today, making all the challenges faced even harder to surmount.
And to top it all of, this story is based on the real lives of the Phogat family. Mahavir Singh Phogat, the father and mentor of the Phogat sisters, has lived this life, and probably endured much more than what was actually shown in the movie. The fact that this movie is not fictional adds huge weight to the proceedings, and the message it delivers.
If you take out Aamir Khan and his statement from the equation, this movie is tailor-made for the Right Wing to embrace. It has the spirit of PM Modi’s Beti Bachao Beti Padhao movement, something which PM Modi has pushed at various important platforms. It has a huge dose of nationalism, mixed with the desire to excel at a sport.
But without doubt, the most important message of this movie its bold statement against patriarchal mindsets. Lets face it, “India” may have moved on in large parts, but large sections of “Bharat” are still chained to regressive practices. No-one can deny that women are yet to get justice in many fields in India.
When an A list star makes a bold appeal that too based on a real-life story, the chance that it may wake up that dying conscience in its viewers is fairly large. Even if 5% of the viewers of this movie go home with a changed outlook towards their daughters, their wives, their daughter-in-laws, and women at large, then it is well worth it.
But to be fair to the movie, it is not only about upliftment of women. It touches on the aspect of a borderline selfish father, robbing his children’s childhood. Or the tricky relation between a daughter and her father-cum-taskmaster-coach.
It is not a perfect movie, being a bit stretched and little contrived in parts. The usual cinematic tropes are thrown in to tug at your emotions. But the acting is A-grade, and there is a very authentic feel to the proceedings. The cast and crew have worked hard to get small things right, and it shows on the screen.
In such a situation, holding Aamir Khan by his one statement, would do great injustice to Dangal’s message which is the need of the hour. As far as sending a message to Aamir Khan is concerned, the boycott Snapdeal movement already had an impact on Aamir.
Governments would do well by making the movie tax free as well, provided Aamir Khan himself promises to donate a percentage of the proceeds to a cause which ensures the upliftment of women. If not, Governments could also promise to use the collections from taxes only for women-specific schemes. Aamir Khan too should step in to promote the Beti Bachao campaign honorarily.
But does this mean if you care about the cause of the girl child, you have to watch Dangal or else you’re a part of the problem? No. One can choose to take Aamir Khan’s message from PK as well, that of not donating to a temple and instead donating clothes to the needy. Instead of watching Dangal, we can also act to solve this gender bias problem by creating awareness, donating to the right causes etc. Finally, its all about working towards the cause, in your own way.