A Bollywood sports biopic that gets nearly all its moves absolutely right, Dangal draws its strength from a blindingly luminous lead performance from a shape-shifting Aamir Khan.
But over and above his physical transformation, compete with wobbly gait and scraggly stubble, so impressively measured is the actor in the guise of national wrestling champion-turned-coach Mahavir Singh Phogat that he completely erases the boundary that separates the star from the role.
Rarely has a Bollywood actor sunk his teeth into a meaty character with such gumption and glory.
Dangal is the story of a Haryana man who dared to do the unthinkable. It is just as much the tale of a pugnacious girl who went where nobody from her tradition-bound village had ever gone.
But above all, Dangal is a hugely entertaining sporting saga that works simply as a piece of good old storytelling leavened with rousing, crowd-pleasing ingredients.
Cinematic sagas of real-life sporting icons have to inevitably contend with one obvious drawback: the stories they tell are well-documented and, therefore, devoid of any mystery.
The element of collective familiarity, especially when the film is about a popular discipline, is more often than not aggravated by Bollywood’s tendency to go for broke in terms of melodramatic flourish.
Dangal gives no cause for worry on that score. Until one rather gratuitous ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ moment in the climax, restraint is the film’s strongest suit.