Dangal ***Dir: Nitesh Tiwari. With: Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra. 161 mins. Cert: PG
Bollywood’s three King Khans have adapted to changing times and mores by recasting themselves as protectors to the nation’s daughters. Action man Salman Khan played chaperone in 2015 blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan; namesake Shah Rukh provided therapeutic guidance to a mixed-up Alia Bhatt in last month’s Dear Zindagi. Aamir Khan’s latest offers a study in flexibility through the real-life figure of Mahavir Singh, a champion wrestler turned potbellied clerk who secured his sporting legacy with a rethink upon realising his girls Geeta and Babita had more fight within them than any male heir might have.
As with most of this Khan’s crowdpleasers, it’s acutely attuned to wider realities: beyond the mat, the Singhs encounter superstition, child brides and institutional slackness, each sidebar reflecting an ongoing social struggle. If elsewhere the sports-movie framework ensures Dangal takes fewer risks than P.K., Khan’s religion-razzing megahit of Christmas 2014, it provides a foursquare showcase for both the star, radiating paternal devotion beneath a stern exterior, and the fiercely supple actresses: the match-ups grapple appreciably with wrestling tactics, aware their outcomes have long been on the record. Very solid, very sound entertainment, with thumpingly good Pritam songs that make “Eye of the Tiger” seem like pipsqueakery.
Dangal opens in cinemas nationwide today.