FactChecking Aamir Khan’s Dangal: Watch It For Drama And Not Facts
If a Bollywood film is made in the future about Kapil Dev, do not be surprised if his 175 not out in the 1983 World Cup is shown as being made in the final against West Indies (instead of being against Zimbabwe in a relatively inconsequential group game, like what really happened). Would you accept that in the name of dramatisation or would it make you apoplectic?
This was my biggest problem with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, which was filled with factual falsehoods around sporting encounters, including the famous one spread by Milkha Singh himself that looking back during the race cost him an Olympic medal. It is even more saddening therefore that Dangal, a far superior film to that one, has to resort to similar falsehoods, as if the true story is not good enough.
The argument that a “1-0, 7-0” triumph to win Gold at the Commonwealth Games is not quite as dramatic as a “5-1, 4-6, 6-5” win (a blatant lie in the film) and therefore required – is a lazy one.
As indeed is the need to establish that Geeta Phogat had not won any international medal before the one shown in the film (a lie, as she won Gold at the Commonwealth wrestling Championships, less than a year before this one).
Moreover, the Bollywood touch of having a crooked and insecure coach as an adversary and the vilification of the NSA in this context, is fundamentally objectionable as no such coach existed in Phogat’s real-life story. Nor did Mahavir Phogat ever shout instructions from the stand, hell, there was apparently never even any disagreement with Geeta’s real-life coach (who is understandably very upset about the portrayal, as per several media reports).
And that last bit of locking Mahavir Phogat up in a storeroom to prevent him from being in the stands is in extreme bad taste. One, Phogat did watch his daughter win that Gold from the stands. Two, that vilification of an implied character and an institution is beyond the realm of belief (given what the repercussions of such an act would have been in real life) – and it really is a writer’s cheap trick; its point was entirely predictable.
It is just very disappointing to see Aamir Khan not being able to transcend this Bollywood fakery, given the many, many things which are impressive about the film, especially in the mainstream format. It is as if mainstream India doesn’t care for the facts – not in films, or politics (as evidenced in 2014), or indeed, life.
The LOL irony here is this – several bio-pics have stalled in Bollywood in the past (for example, those on Kishore Kumar and Guru Dutt) because of objections from certain quarters about the real truth being told as it shows some in a less-than-glorious light. But here, despite having genuinely inspiring stories to tell, the high points are dressed up and exaggerated with ludicrous and utterly unnecessary lies. It is embarrassing to see this lack of imagination being justified in the name of “adding drama”.
Please do not bring up Hollywood (and films like “Argo” and “Sully”) – despite the license they take in the name of storytelling, they do not ever resort to this kind of fakery (a lot of the time they can’t, because of legal reasons).
This second-guessing glorification shames Bollywood.
This post first appeared on Jaideep Varma’s Facebook page. Republished with permission.