Why I Think Oscar Winning Film About Serena & Venus Williams Is Better Than Dangal

That young black girls deserve to be seen, deserve to be heard, that there was nothing a strong woman couldn’t do, to stand tall and be proud of their identity, and where they came from.

Before I begin this piece, I must address my dissatisfaction with Dangal, an Indian film which tried to play out in the similar context – a father going against all odds to support his athlete daughters.

Now the thing about cinema is that you either tell a true story, or make one up, or you mix the two.

With our Indian film, its first part was convincingly real which made it great (and the reason that attracted the audience, in the first place). The second part, however, while trying to narrate to us the story about the two exceptionally talented sisters, also tried to turn the dad into a hero. And while that could have been done very naturally and effortlessly, it crossed certain boundaries and jumped into little puddles when it tried to insult an institution and vilify a coach, just because it wanted to shine the light on the hero of the film.

King Richard is about the parents of Vanessa and Serena Williams

Now coming back to the US counterpart on the lines of similar storytelling, King Richard is about Richard Williams, the father of Serena and Venus Williams. And it’s not just incredible acting and exemplary story-telling, but the overall experience that has opened its doors to the BAFTAs and Oscars, but it’s also moving the audience without any overdramatic cervixes – the delivery is quite believable.

Very inspiring, very satisfying and very nourishing, at the same time.
Will Smith does nothing to be a hero in the film. His character is a hero because his daughters are champions. and vice versa. It’s a story about blood and sweat and tears, and the ultimate dreams.

Richard Williams lives in Compton with his wife Brandy and his three step daughters and his two daughters. He has made a 78 page plan for his daughters Venus and Serena before they were even born. He aspires to see them as tennis sensations, the ones who will rule the world.

From very early on in life, the girls are taught values of hard work, discipline, relentlessness, confidence, tireless training sessions, huge ambitions and daring dreams, and the associated costs.

Both parents are pretty hard on the kids to keep them off streets (means distractions, unhealthy influence, danger, robbers, violence and drugs), to aspire them to be future doctors and lawyers and world class athletes. Even though they see reluctance and doubts in the eyes of the viewers, they keep their faith and their spirit alive, to be alive.

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There’s either soaring to unbelievable heights of success or nothing for Richard’s daughters.

We are here talking about parents who work day and night, train their kids, save every penny, drive long drives to tournaments, tirelessly make brochures and videotapes to advertise the girls’ skills, and still fail to afford a professional coach.

So how do they do what they did? They do it themselves, by sticking together.

He’s the parent, not the ‘hero’

When I was little, my father used to tell me the names of women who were outstanding in their field of work. There were two tennis stars, two sisters, who he used to tell me about, which is why when this film came out, I was very excited about it.

When Venus tastes initial success at junior tournaments, Richard never fails to stress on the fact that the girls need to remain humble.

His constant encouragement in the form of reminders that their representation means representing every little black girl on earth is a love note to the girls telling them how far they have come, yet how far they still need to go, keeping their dignity intact. When the family walks and crosses pathways with upper class white families around tennis grounds, a rarity back then, Richard tells the girls that they are being stared at because they are just not used to seeing good looking people like us.

For a man who openly declares that he is raising not one but two Michael Jordans, Richard Williams has his fears as strong as his aspirations – and his biggest aspiration is for his daughters to gain the kind of respect that the world never had for him.

And in one great scene he tells his wife Brandy that Venus and Serena are going to shake up the world, and they eventually do. And that is partly also because he brought up the most dangerous creatures in the world – women who can think.

In another great scene Brandy reminds the two sisters of what Sojourner Truth, an American abolitionist and women’s rights activist, had said at Seneca Falls – Ain’t I a woman?

That young black girls deserve to be seen, deserve to be heard, that there was nothing a strong woman couldn’t do, to stand tall and be proud of their identity and where they came from.

The family comes together to collectively take some major life changing decisions, and that to me is very fundamental and relatable, and must I say, democratic.

Amidst cheers, manoeuvring their way through wins and losses, and under constant media gaze, the two girls grow up to be the most popular and invincible players of the sport.

As Beyonce’s Be Alive lyrics would say-

It feels so good, so good
Got all my family by my side
And we gon’ sit on top of the world again
Couldn’t wipe this black off if I tried
And I wouldn’t trade nothing
And I wouldn’t trade nothing
That’s why I lift my head with pride
So baby, lift your head, yeah

Darling, it’s a celebration for you, yeah
I got the tribe all by my side
You’re doing everything they said you couldn’t do
Couldn’t wipe this black off if I tried
That’s why I lift my head with pride
Lift your head, yeah

Go watch the film, and feel alive.

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About the Author

Chaitanya Srishti

Mostly writing, other times painting. Here to celebrate little wins. I am on the same page as you, just a different book - you read mine, I'll read yours. read more...

33 Posts | 53,777 Views

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