A Lesson For All From The Movie Dangal

If you are in India and have not been living under a rock; or simply hate Bollywood, then you must have heard about, read or maybe even seen the movie Dangal.

For the uninitiated, it is the story of two sisters (and their father) who go on to become international wrestlers fighting against all odds in an ultra-conservative society, which treats women as pre-destined homemakers and child-bearers.

While women empowerment is the evident theme of the movie; however for me, the other poignant message one can take from Dangal is regarding the unspoken sacrifice our parents make for our future success.

In the movie, not just the girls, he (the father) too woke up at 5 AM every day. He too trained alongside them. He then also worked the entire day to put food on the table. He sacrificed everything to build the future of his kids in a country where opportunities are hard to come by. A country where not only children, but parents too have to compete, to achieve the best for them.

And when success does arrive, when we become MBAs and software engineers and corporate lawyers and what not, we are quick to dismiss him as old and unresourcesful and (implicitly) inferior. For how can his meager government job match up to our fancy glass offices and a yearly salary greater than his entire pension fund?

Like in the movie, when Geeta finally becomes an international wrestler after years of hard work with his father, she promptly questions his harsh, rustic upbringing; the 5 AM training in the mud field his father dug, forgetting in her youthful exuberance that the same training made her the international athlete she is.

Geeta leaves him as he has outgrown his utility and her expanding ego can’t afford his old-school rigidity. He doesn’t say a word and accepts it as a price for her success. And yet, when she needs him again, he doesn’t bat an eyelid to be there for her.

Haven’t we – especially the present generation – all been Geeta at some point in our adult lives? Guilty of mistreating our parents. And isn’t Mahavir Phogat a reflection of every Indian father, who at the crossroads of life killed his own dreams and aspirations to light up his children’s?

We forget our parents are humans too. They too can be wrong and overrun by emotions. However, the only people who’d always want our best is them! They just don’t have a choice, but to love us and protect us. Afterall, we are, and forever, will remain a part of them.

Watch Dangal if you haven’t. It’ll force you to seek answers to some hard hitting questions within.

Nishant holds an MS from the University of Michigan. When asked, he helps early-stage startups in reaching out to more people using the power of impactful storytelling and minimalism.
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