Friday, October 2, 2020

PANGA is a progressive and touching sports drama that works thanks to its plot, execution, some fine moments and of course the superlative performance of Kangana Ranaut.

PANGA is a progressive and touching sports drama that works thanks to its plot, execution, some fine moments and of course the superlative performance of Kangana Ranaut 

A small track in Priyanka Chopra-starrer MARY KOM [2014] dealt with the protagonist returning back to boxing after motherhood. It gave a nice insight of what women go through when they make a comeback in sports after giving birth and how it’s tough for them not just physically but more so, mentally. Now Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, of NIL BATTEY SANNATA [2016] and BAREILLY KI BARFI [2017] fame, takes this aspect as a central idea for her next film, PANGA, starring Kangana Ranaut in the leading role. So does PANGA manage to touch as well as entertain? Or does it fail to entice? Let’s analyse. 

PANGA is the story of a mother trying to fulfil her dreams. Jaya Nigam (Kangana Ranaut) is a pro at Kabaddi. She slowly rises and also becomes the captain of the Indian Kabaddi team. She is meanwhile married to Prashant (Jassie Gill) and gets pregnant just before she is to go for a major tournament. She still assures her seniors that she’ll be back soon. However, her son is born prematurely and with a very weak immune system. The doctor informs that they’ll have to take care of the baby tremendously and only then will he have a normal growth. Jaya hence gives up her dream. She takes up a job in the railways and divides her time between her work and raising her son Adi (Yagya Bhasin). 7 years pass. Jaya is finding it difficult to fulfil the responsibilities expected from her. Moreover, she meets Meenu (Richa Chadha), who was in Jaya’s team and still plays Kabaddi. One day, Adi suggests that his mother should make a comeback in Kabaddi. He persuades Prashant and both begin nag Jaya. Jaya is unsure as she feels she has grown old and is not that fit. Prashant suggests that Jaya should pretend to make comeback and a month later, she can claim that she didn’t get selected. Jaya hence begins her practice. At first, it’s difficult for her but soon, she gets enthusiastic about the whole process. After a long time, she realises she is finally living her life. Two months pass and one day, she tells Prashant that she wants to continue practicing and try to get into the Indian team. What happens next forms the rest of the film.

Divya Rao’s research and concept is fairly nice and simple. The story has a lot of potential and also it’s a bit unique. We have had sports films in the past but a film on a mother making a comeback hasn’t been tackled as a main plot. Nikhil Mehrotra and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s screenplay (additional screenplay by Nitesh Tiwari) also retains the simplicity and relatability. The writing is peppered with some entertaining moments that keep the interest going. On the flipside, it could have been tighter, especially towards the second half. Also, the film gives a heavy déjà vu of DANGAL [2016]. Nikhil Mehrotra and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s dialogues (additional dialogues by Nitesh Tiwari) are one of the highpoints. Some of the one-liners, especially the ones uttered by the child actor, will bring the house down.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s direction is good. It’s evident that her own personal experiences have also seeped in the film. A few sequences are very deftly handled. The finale especially is too good and would be greeted with claps and whistles. The beauty of it is that you know what’s going to happen and yet, you can’t help but feel exhilarated when it unfolds. Also, to see the way Jaya gets the support of her husband, her son, her mother, her bestie and even her neighbour is quite heartwarming and would be loved by female audiences especially. On the flipside, except for the ending, the predictability of the script does affect the impact along with the long length. Jaya’s flashback doesn’t really make it clear that she had achieved such heights of stardom. Also, Prashant seemed sad when Jaya announces her plan to do a comeback but it wasn’t the case, as revealed later on. This bit was bewildering and could have been done away with or handled better.

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