Review: PANGA

Lovely little paint by numbers sports film. 

2 stars

Mini Review:

Happy housewife works at railway office in Bhopal was really India Kabaddi team captain. Now she’s looking after seven year old and husband. The child puts the idea of a comeback into her head and she gets back on to the kabaddi court, winning the championship for India. Sounds rather predictable, but director handles the matter gently, and makes for a very sweet watch.

Main Review:

Story Before The Star

Dangal this is not. It has humour, but real. No starry ‘Look I’m acting se well I have put on weight for the role’. Neither is it Mary Kom, which seems kind of impossible, superwoman homage film, again with a star dominating the story. This is not even trying to be the Indian girls playing football in England movie. 

Panga has a star too, and known for taking over the narrative. Kangna Ranaut is a very good actor but she has a reputation, and even before the movie people wondered if this film was going to be as terrible as Manikarnika. I must admit, I was wondering too. Thankfully credit goes both to the director and the star for putting the story before the star.

Kangna plays Jaya Nigam, housewife to Prashant Nigam and a seven year old mouthy boy in Bhopal. She works at the railway ticket counter, her husband is an engineer in the railways too and the boy, who has a delicate constitution goes to school. She kicks her husband in her sleep every night (cute scene), she’s organised about her child’s medicines and school routine (cute scene), she’s also cute with her coworkers. She has sweet neighbors and a crappy boss. who yells at her for being late telling us she is no longer India team captain (cute exposition here!).

Great Ensemble Cast

The husband Jassie Gill makes for a great debut. He fits in lookswise into the husband’s character. He’s sweet and accommodating and smiles sweetly and laughs a lot. He’s not a teensy bit irritated by his wife’s career, supports it, is a good guy… Jeeeeeejuss! Will be a pain to deal with in real life. But in real life most Indian husbands at least behave badly once like Manav Kaul did in Tumhari Sulu.

Then enters a fab, fab character: Meenu. She used to be team-mate with Jaya Nigam and they were best of friends until Jaya gave up her sports career when her child turned out to be weak and needing help (cute reason, because the husband is so sweet already!). Richa Chadda is brilliant as Meenu, coach, friend, confidant and commentator (sootradhar practically)…

Predictable Sports Hero Story

Hero works hard, fails, gets inspired, fights family and friends and himself and goes on to prove that they really are a hero… In the sports film, right from Rocky days, we’ve had (Burgess Meredith who plays) Mickey training Rocky to become a hero. Same here. The mouthy child wants mom to ‘comeback’ so he begins pushing her to exercise first. She then starts dreaming of a comeback too…

Yes, this film too has coaches. There are coaches who will use her ‘comeback’ story to get mileage for women’s sports, but at least it is not a sleazy coach who asks for sexual favours. Thankfully Rajesh Tailang is good coach. After all, we need this to be a family film…

But someone tell me one thing, why do all sports film have to show us ALL the matches in detail? From the word ‘go’ to flag waving after the win? It’s plain tedious. 

The police detective from Marathi film Saavat is the captain of the India team (Smita Tambe) and is the token villain who calls Jaya out for being the ‘bench warmer’, ‘token PR’. But here I wish the villainy was a little stronger for it to be believable. 

There’s even a secret move that will fox the opponents clearly mentioned and the whole audience said ‘Tiger Chan’ when the moment came… I admit most cinema is made for the lowest common denominator, but you cannot be so unsubtle…

But it’s so sweet and cute and family friendly, and tantrum free that we like it. Also because they say that this film is dedicated to all mothers who want a second chance… How can you be a monster and not like a film dedicated to moms?

Not me. I like, I really liked it. I’m not being sarcastic here… 

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