Dangal – Entertaining and Inspiring. But is it a feminist movie?

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Is Dangal really a feminist movie?

So the year 2016 is coming to an end. Pink, Kahaani 2 and Dangal. It seems feminism is paving its way into mainstream Bollywood.

I have written on Pink and Kahaani 2 and both the movies are very close to my heart. Absolutely loved them. I did like Dangal also, as it is about hard work, perseverance, ambition , achievement and the beautiful relationship between a father and his daughters. I want to appreciate it as a good movie. But is it really about feminism? No I don’t think so.

In a scene that turned out to be the turning point, young girls Gita and Babita shock everybody by beating up a bunch of boys. The boys’ mother is fuming and shames her sons for getting beaten up by girls. In another instance, boys are ridiculed for losing to the girls.

Maybe in this context, it is justified to some extent because boys are supposed to have more physical strength than girls?

But is it feminist and cool to shame somebody who laughs and says “Girls can’t beat boys” and then join him instead to laugh at the boys who get beaten up by girls? Is it necessary to support stereotypes either way, whether it is for men or women?

These are the skewed concepts of masculinity and chauvinism embedded from patriarchy. Men should be strong, men should not cry. This is why men who are brought up with this kind of mentality feel less of a man when they see a woman strong and powerful, and feel like they have to control her in any way possible to prove their masculinity, even if it involves violence.

Yes, we are now focusing on girls which is great. Teenaged Geeta and Babita emerged strong winners. But what about the boys who were taunted for the unthinkable shame of being defeated by girls? How would they have dealt with this frustration? How would they end up treating women in their lives? Would they not exert force to prove their worth knowing that girls going ahead of them would be considered the ultimate insult to their masculinity?

Girls are not less than boys

I detest this statement. Girls don’t have to prove that they are not lesser or greater than boys. Let us just accept them as human beings with equal rights. Let us not keep boys at the pedestal where they are the parameters of comparison to prove women’s worth.

If we are saying girls are not less than boys, but we are making boys feel less if girls are doing better them then is it serving any purpose? Have we really accepted gender equality? Do we have to make one sex feel superior to prove something and demean the other?

There is a part of the movie in which Geeta leaves her home and starts to see a different (normal?) side of life. Watching romantic movies, dressing up, applying nail paint, looking at boys and letting her hair grow. Her father is not happy with this. She reasons with her mother that in her training school, they are allowed to do all of this, and as long as she is performing well, how does it matter if she has some freedom in life?

I loved her statement. It applies to everyone not just wrestlers. Every girl who grows up and sees life, gets influenced by new lifestyles and new people she meets as she is discovering herself at the dawn of adulthood. She has to make choices in life, stay grounded to the values she believes in but also rejuvenate herself to fit in with the world. I would have liked to see Geeta live up to it. It was a very important moment in the movie.

But since Aamir Khan had to be glorified, she had to be proved wrong. Her performance declines and her father has to make a comeback as her coach (which is fine). But why did she have to cut her hair short? A strong ambitious wrestler cannot have the natural desire to look good? She had to defy that to prove loyalty to her work and her father? Again, the stereotype has been reinforced that women can either be strong and ambitious or bimbos. If they put on makeup and are in touch with their feminine side, how does it make them any less accomplished?

I hope I have not been too critical. I did like the movie. A lot. I just feel feminism has a long way to go. Even in movies.


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