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Must a woman give up her dreams and her identity if she is married and has kids? No, says the new Hindi movie Panga, directed by Ashwini Iyer Tiwari of Nil Battey Sannata fame.
A week after its release, I grabbed the chance to watch Panga. If the film is to be summarized in a line, I’d say it celebrates the power of a woman.
Former Indian national women’s Kabaddi captain Jaya Nigam (played by Kangana Ranaut) is settled in a life of peaceful domesticity and motherhood with husband Prashant and son Adi. The sport is so engrained in her blood that every night she kicks her husband in her sleep as though she was playing kabaddi. The film starts on that humorous note with her husband groaning in the middle of the night and telling her not to kick him, for they belonged to the same team.
Save for occasional nostalgia, Jaya does not regret giving up the sport. She is happy taking care of her family and juggling her job as a clerk at the ticket counter of the Indian railways. She is a responsible mother who is concerned about her kid doing his homework. She is worried about him eating junk lest he falls sick. The trio enjoy the simple pleasures of life and are blissfully settled.
There’s a turn of events when Adi, in his childhood innocence, unintentionally hurts his mother by making a rude comment when she’s not able to attend his school sports day. When his father shares the story of how his mom had sacrificed her sports career for him, Adi is heartbroken. He decides to bring his mother back to the kabaddi world with his father’s help. Reluctant at first, Jaya finally gives in and starts her journey to train herself to be a player once again.
Does Jaya achieve her goal, and does she maintain her confidence and resolution in this not-too-easy mission? After all, she’s 32 years old and needs to compete with players younger to her. Also, she has been out of practice for seven long years. The rest of the film focuses on the odds Jaya has to beat to reach her goal.
Panga weaves a story which testifies that family is indeed a patchwork of love.
Prashant as the kind, supportive husband will strike a chord with every woman. He takes over the household chores when Jaya moves from Bhopal to Kolkata. It does strike a funny bone to see him nervous when the milk over-boils and flows out and when he is pathetic at making parathas which his son refuses to eat. Adi is an adorable kid who from the bottom of his heart wants his mother to excel. I’d so like to adopt such a child! It is so touching when he misses his mother while she is away and chews on the tulsi leaves she had wanted him to take but which he had earlier refused.
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, like in Nil Battey Sannata (2016) and Bareilli Ki Barfi (2017), proves her mettle once again in this film. Brilliantly directed, the story is soaked in realism that a middle class family in India will be able to identify with. Jassi Gill as Prashant and Yagya Bhasin as Adi execute their roles effortlessly. They are so convincing. The character of Meenu, essayed by Richa Chadha, is a paean to friendship. Her part in the film is equally important, for she is Jaya’s constant companion who guides and encourages her. Neena Gupta in a minor role is credible as Jaya’s mother, worried about her daughter’s well being. She’s initially a little disturbed when Jaya decides to play kabaddi again but never fails to extend her support.
The best dose of dramatic brilliance undoubtedly comes from Kangana Ranaut. She is sweet, she’s funny, she’s silly, and she makes you so much a part of her life that you feel she’s just your neighbor next door.
The message that comes loud and clear in Panga is that marriage and motherhood need not put a period to one’s career. As mentioned in a beautiful statement at the end, all mothers can highlight their potential when given a second chance. Panga is a film brimming over with feelings of love and affection to warm your hearts in the chill of this winter.
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Born in India, Rashmi Bora Das moved to the United States in the early nineties.
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