I can't recollect the last time I had this much fun at the cinema ever since Tanu Weds Manu Returns of early 2015. This inherently sincere and inspirational story employs the usual tropes of an Indian sports film, but it is filmed with such genuine affection for its characters and bolstered by such heartfelt performances (even the tiniest of characters have a moment to shine) that you can't help literally swell with pride as the lights come on which is when you realize that you've witnessed an important and a deeply satisfying film that will most likely endure the test of time.
The first fifteen minutes or so of the film feel like the extended trailer playing itself out and it takes some time to find its feet. But, from here on, when the haanikarak bapu decides to integrate training cum torture into his girls' lives, the film soars. The first half moves at a frenetic pace infused with a kind of dizzying fervor while the narrative itself is powered by an outstanding, earthy soundtrack by Pritam (who is having the time of his life after Ae Dil Hain Mushkil and Dishoom this year) interspersed with imaginatively engaging lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya, arguably the finest lyricists of our times.
Director Nitesh Tiwari sinks his teeth into the film delivering a compelling drama that inspires and entertains in equal parts. He deserves praise for keeping Aamir's character on the backburner while silently fueling the film's vehicle even as the girls and wrestling at large, take centrestage.
Now, comparisons with Salman Khan's Sultan are inevitable. To be honest, Sultan was a silly film made only to cater to that section of the audience who wished to see Bhai shirtless for almost three-fourths of the film. But Dangal is much more than that. It addresses important issues like the imbalance in sex ratio of the hinterland where girls are brought up with the sole purpose of marrying them away. It is against this backdrop that the story of Mahavir Singh Phogat and his daughters plays a crucial role in shaping the thought process of that marginalized section of the society.
I'm going with 4/5 for Dangal. Few can challenge Aamir in the Dangal of Bollywood. The game, the film and 2016 have all finished in style. Take a bow, Mr. Aamir Khan!!