First publised on 2020-01-25 11:54:59
It is a blessing for movie-lovers in India that within a couple of weeks, two powerful women-oriented films on strong subjects have released. First, Deepika Padukone wowed us with Chhapaak and this week, Kangana Ranaut has mesmerized us with Panga. It is Kangana's best performance to date, surpassing even the quirky Rani in Queen.
Panga is a film that works on many levels. It celebrates motherhood. It emphasizes the never-say-die spirit. It focuses on ambition and desire to succeed. Yet, it remains rooted in reality and never glamorizes the struggle. A sporting career is thought to be over after motherhood. The film shows how an inner desire to regain the earlier space can make a sportsperson overcome the hurdles.
Kangana Ranaut plays Jaya, a former captain of the national women's kabaddi team, who left a promising career to make a home. The choice was hers entirely without any drama (father on death bed imploring her to marry). She immersed herself in household chores and in bringing up her son. She also works in the railways and sells tickets. Though she regrets her decision occasionally, she knows that the time has passed for any comeback.
But when her son forces her to try for a comeback, at first she goes through the rigmarole of training just to please him. She is aware that her umar (age) and kamar (waist) are both not conducive to return to the sport which has moved ahead in terms of both technique and physical ability since she left it seven years ago. But the bug bites her sooner than she thinks. She gets back the drive to play it again like the way she used to.
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (Nil Battey Sannata, Bareilly Ki Barfi) has mastered the art of making emotional dramas with a tinge of comedy with women protagonists based out of small towns in India. Here she takes the slice of life and makes it a celebration of motherhood. The film works so beautifully because of Tiwari's eye for detail and her habit of not letting the drama overshadow the narrative. She has also become an expert at extracting virtuoso performance from ensemble casts, whether they have two scenes or more meaty roles.
Kangana Ranaut is an accomplished actor. But in Tiwari's hands, she becomes one with the character. Jaya is Kangana and Kangana is Jaya in the film. So deep is her immersion in the character that not a single step seems out of place. Both the actor and the director need to be saluted for that. Kangana is provided excellent support by Jassie Gill who plays her supportive husband and Yagya Bhasin who plays her insistent son. Neena Gupta, who plays her mother, is her usual competent self with a bit more confidence after the enormous success of Badhai Ho. Richa Chadha, as the friend and the coach who prepares her for the comeback, is excellent with some spunky lines.
If you like to spend two hours enjoying an endearing tale well told, you should not give Panga a miss.