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To call Panga a sports movie wouldn’t be totally wrong. But it is also a movie that shows what happens when a woman, especially a mother dares to dream.
An iconic dialogue from the movie, Dirty Picture goes, “Filmein sirf teen cheezo ke wajah se chalti hai- entertainment, entertainment, entertainment.” (Movies work only because of three things- entertainment, entertainment and entertainment.)
The world of cinema couldn’t have been explained better in one line. However, there are those rare movies that give you more than just entertainment- these movies manage to touch a chord in your heart. They leave you with thoughts to ponder on. You step out the movie hall feeling an emotional upheaval. There’s a strange sense of bonding you feel with the characters.
For me, Panga belongs to this category of movies. It focuses on a subject close to every woman’s heart- that of a mother trying to seize an opportunity to make a comeback. Panga may be widely touted a sports movie, however, to me and a thousand other women, it resonated in a different manner. To me, it was the tale of a mother’s struggle to make her dreams work despite obstacles. This movie is an ode to motherhood. But not the the sanskari kheer making mother. It is an ode the sense of the real mothers out there striving every day to carve a niche for themselves despite all the limitations life piles up before them.
The opening scene of the movie is that of an ideal, happy family. Jaya, once the former captain of the Indian Kabaddi team is now a happy mother and wife. She works as a railway ticket counter clerk and leads a normal middle class life with her family in Bhopal’s railway colony.
At the outset, everything looks picture-perfect, a witty child, a caring husband and a job which gives her the proverbial freedom. To the world, she has everything a woman would want in life. But behind the façade of the happy mother is a yearning of a dream which had to be abandoned mid-way, a dream unfulfilled.
Jaya still reminisces her days of glory when she played for the Indian Kabaddi team. Her husband Prashant says that there are three things in life she loves the most- their son, himself and Kabaddi. The movie captures her journey of trying her luck at the game for a second time.
Persuaded by her son to make a come back and helped by her friend and former teammate Minu she does make the comeback. But it is not a cakewalk. Even though, she makes a comeback she still does not become an overnight sensation. Nevertheless, the message is effectively communicated by the director Ashwini Iyer Tiwary- that every mother out there is special in her own way. So she should go ahead and take the ‘panga’ in life.
Minutes into the movie you realise that Jaya could be any other woman you see across the country. She portrays the women who are content by society’s standards, as they have a family to nurture and a husband who cares for them. The shock on some of her acquaintances’ faces when she find out that she lives in a different city is so familiar! What is even more familiar is what they tell her husband, ‘We thought you two were happy together!’ It makes me wonder why the society can’t fathom the fact that happily married women can have dreams and ambitions of their own.
The movie brings to focus an issue that has, quite often resulted in a lopsided gender representation- that of a woman’s desire and struggle to make a comeback into professional life after motherhood.
There is a plethora of reasons for women to take a break from work once they embrace motherhood. In a lot of cases, it is familial pressure and lack of support in raising the child. At the same time, it could be a personal choice to prioritise the child above other things in the initial phase of their life.
But it is widely evident that this break often proves to be the death of the professional ambitions of the mother. And a number of times, like Jaya here, women settle for a less significant role at work to effectively handle their domestic responsibilities.
Though the lack of family support is a big reason behind this, the truth remains that the world at large is wary of giving mothers a second chance. I doubt fathers are ever asked who would look after the child while they are at work. Or even if they get the scornful look followed by comments like, “When you have chosen to work, you should be serious about it.” when they ask to leave work early, once in a blue moon.
However, as a working mother, I have faced these question and comments a number of times. And I am sure a number of mothers out there would definitely have more tales like these.
The movie doesn’t just address the issues of the mother aiming to make a comeback. It also highlights the importance of family support and support from the husband too.
Several reviews of the movie claim that the movie shows that behind every woman’s success, there is always a man. And that just takes away the shine out of Sudha’s success. I definitely do not agree with this stance. The movie shows how an equal marriage actually is.
It has a father who shares the parenting responsibilities, doesn’t expect to be waiting on and also prioritises time with his family. And when his wife decides to go back to Kabbadi, he stands by her and supports her. He appreciates her efforts to go back to her dream.
A lot of you may ask, what is so special about him since men are evolved now and aren’t the patriarchal heads of the house. Well, how I wish it were the truth. I agree, you do have an increasing number of men treating their wives as equal partners but these are few and far between.
The biggest brownie point for the husband’s character is that in true Bollywood style he does not hog the credit for his wife’s success. Neither is he portrayed to be a perfect tough guy. He is real, human and has his pangs of loneliness, emotional outbursts and some weak moments.
While bromance has always been celebrated, we do have a few movies celebrating female friendships. Panga is one of them. Minu, Jaya’s friend, is a friend we all have in life. She is the one who doesn’t think before calling you out but is also loyal to you and will be there for you any time you need her.
All the actors in the movie have portrayed their characters wonderfully. Kangana Ranuat breathes life into Jaya and Jassi Gill as her husband Prashant is endearing. But it is the child actor Yagya Bhasin playing their son Aditya who warrants a special mention. The boy is adorable and natural performer. You root for him when he tries to convince his dad to let mom give Kabbadi another shot. Richa Chadha as Minu is brilliant as always. And Neena Gupta in a brief role brings the quintessential Indian mom to life.
This movie should be on every mother and most importantly on every family’s watch list. I am sure we all want to see the day when every mother resonates tennis star Sania Mirza’s thoughts “I don’t think that becoming a mother really takes things away from what you are or who you are. It empowers who you become and who you are.”
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A dreamer by passion and an Advocate by profession. Mother to an ever energetic and
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