The topic of women’s rights within India has consistently generated discussion and garnered attention, in both negative and positive ways. Recently, the topic has once again gathered attention after the box office hit Dangal hit theaters. Dangal tells the story of two young girls from the state of Haryana who, against all odds, become national level wrestling champions. The movie is based on the true story, and focuses heavily on many of the misogynistic aspects present in Indian culture.
I won’t lie: this movie was delightful. Watching the two sisters-Geeta and Babita- struggle and fight and win against the patriarchy is incredibly inspiring, and it was beautiful to watch the movie call out injustice and misogyny. But I don’t think that we should remain completely uncritical of the movie.
I think the most important aspect to address was the portrayal of the father. The story should have been about the girls and their struggle; but instead it was portrayed more as the story of the father’s struggle to train the daughters. Multiple times throughout the movie, the authority of the father in the movie was emphasized; a movie that was supposedly challenging the patriarchy, made sure at the end of the day, the plot would resolve once the girls listened to their father. This was obviously a money grab; at the end of the day, Indian movie producers still want to make money off their films, and they wanted to push boundaries; but not push them too far. This is precisely the problem; there is a lot that is inspiring about this story but unless we are willing to address the root cause of all this: the patriarchal family structure: women’s rights in India will not improve.
Don’t get me wrong: the movie Dangal was incredible, and it was extremely liberal for the heavily conservative state of Haryana. But it’s important to remember that there are still ideas present in the movie; and in Indian society as whole; that need to be challenged if we want actual progress. And unfortunately, money hungry producers will only generate so much of a discussion. It’s important that we attempt to make a difference ourselves.
written by Aditi Poduri