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Worth the Trouble

Film: Panga

Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Jassi Gill, Richa Chadda, Yagya Bhasin

Directed by: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari

Duration: 2 hrs 9 mins

Rating: * * * 1 / 2

Bollywood has given us films where the main protagonist is a woman, Queen (2014) for instance or a sports film involving a woman, like Mary Kom (2014). Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari who gave us the highly underrated Nil Battey Sannata (2016) followed by the enjoyable Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017), fuses the two subjects seamlessly – a kabaddi player with a husband and a kid wants to make a comeback in the arena again.

Like all sports films, this is also the story of the underdog but the director along with the co-writer has added several nuances to it making it more than just a story of a sportsperson who aspires to regain glory. More than sports, it is about a woman who is caught in the rigmarole of marital family life, sacrificing her dreams and ambitions – out of her choice, not out of compulsion, as she points out.

The ‘she’ is in question is Jaya (Kangana Ranaut), all of 32 years, happily married with a doting husband and smart seven-year-old kid. In the very first scene we see her kicking her husband in her sleep – she can’t help it, she was India’s kabaddi captain once upon a time so moving her feet swiftly comes naturally to her. But that is pretty much the only connection she has with the sport. She works for the railways, takes care of her always caring and supporting hubby Prashant (Jassi Gill) and a kid (Yagya Bhasin) who occasionally cracks a wise quip. It’s a jolly and happy family with smiling faces, the kind that you see in an Ozu film.    

But at one point Jaya tells Prashant that she is happy to see him and where he is in life and ditto with the son – but when she sees herself, there is a tinge of regret. Make no mistake, she loves her family and is proud of everything she has done for it but somewhere deep down she feels that she could do or wants a little more for herself.

On learning about the sacrifices she made, her little son eggs her on to make a comeback in kabaddi – hubby tells her to just make him believe that she indeed is making a comeback. Richa Chadha plays her ex-teammate turned coach and she has some clever lines to throw and the scene about a marriage proposal is a hoot. Both women are strong characters – they know what they want but they are not indifferent to the reality. Kudos to the writers Tiwari, Nikhil Mehrotra and Nitesh Tiwari for creating such refreshing characters – even the husband is rather unusual – he is steadfast and always supportive.        

Both of Tiwari’s previous films were set in a world that looked real and this story, set in Bhopal, is no different. The lines that they speak are spot on and even the supporting characters add to the charm.

The cast is in fine fettle. You can tell that Richa Chadha is having a ball playing her ultra-cool character. The young Yagya Bhasin is very impressive, particularly with his dialogue delivery and expressions and Jassi Gill as the affectionate husband is spot on. Kangana Ranaut is in terrific form in each and every scene – as the mother and as a sports person, she looks and plays her part to perfection. All in all, this Panga is well worth taking.

Two Feet Under

Film: Street Dancer 3D

Cast: Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor, Prabhu Deva

Directed by: Remo D’Souza

Duration: 2 hrs 31 mins

Rating: * *

As a teenager, I loved Mithun Chakraborty’s dance films to Sidney Poiter’s Fast Forward (1985) – they all revolved around dance but also had a decent story for its time, to go with it. In Street Dance, the climax has dancers from India and Pakistan who team up together and dance to Mile Sur Mera Tumhara (that memorable Doordarshan song) to beat a British dance group in a competition called Ground Zero, being held in England. If there was a smiley for a facepalm, I would have liked to add one here.

The third film in the ABCD franchise, Street Dancer 3D (the film is also being shown in 2D with the same title) is set on the streets of London with a plot that goes round and round like a jalebi,  except that in the case of this film, it is pointless. Sahej (Varun Dhawan) is an Indian in the UK and takes up dancing seriously after his elder brother twists his ankle and as a result cannot win the coveted Ground Zero title. Inayit (Shraddha Kapoor) is a part of a dance troupe comprising Pakistanis and there is no love lost when the two often meet at a restaurant run by Ram Prasad (Prabhudeva) who is the Yoda of all dancers. He also dances to the super-hit song of yore, Muqabla which then made him a household name.

There is a lot of dancing that happens in two and a half hours – every now and then they are dancing, which is fine, because it is well choreographed and looks good on screen. When they are not dancing, they are feeding homeless immigrants in the UK which is a noble cause

but doesn’t go well with the film. Since the film is in 3D, no opportunity is wasted is ‘throwing’ objects at the audience, including a donut. The subplots, if one can call them that, are either a big yawn or are laughable, mostly

the former. 

Nora Fatehi also has a role to play in the scheme of things and her dancing skills are far better than her acting skills, and that is putting it politely. The rest of the cast doesn’t particularly fare better.

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