Director: Ashwini Iyer Tiwari
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Jassie Gill, Neena Gupta, Richa Chadha
This slice-of-life sports drama encapsulates Indian Kabaddi Team’s former captain’s struggle to get back to her athletic heyday after nine years of marital bliss and post-natal complications. While the film sounds like all things serious, it is not. In fact, it’s a fun, entertaining and meaningful drive towards gender equality.
As far as Jaya Nigam’s (Kangana Ranaut) life goes, there’s not much of a challenge other than the ones she chooses to take on. Her husband Prashant (Jassie Gill) is the ever smiling, reticent appeaser while her son, precocious as he is, and immediately after taking an unkind jab at her drab work profile (ticket clerk at a railway station), wants her to relive her past glory as a kabbadi player. So, with her best buddy Meenu (Richa Chadha) wittily egging her on and her husband and son Adi willing to take on all the household chores, Jaya gets back into training. But self-doubt, a recalcitrant physique and team politics could still keep her away from the mat at the Asian Kabaddi Championships.
It’s a simple story concentrated around a family’s willingness to cope with a loved one’s need to upgrade her self-worth. While the conceit is not a challenging one, the journey from a multi-tasking dissatisfied homemaker cum co-breadwinner to team India Kabbadi player is an interesting, engaging and sweetly endearing one. Especially since the wit comes from the kid, Adi (darling Yagya Bhasin) and the best friend Meenu (consummate and entirely at ease Richa Chadha) who actually steals your heart away from the main protagonist and her intimate trials. Even Neena Gupta (in a svelte mom/grandmom avatar) and Jassie Gill, manage an amiable likeability here while a flawless Kangana, without stealing the limelight away from the lesser players (in sync with the true team spirit), sheds luminous light on the many mini battles a woman has to wage in order to achieve her goals.
Director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari has created a Dangal of sorts with this Panga - with some able help from husband Nitesh Tiwari (who has helped sharpen the dialogues and co-produced the film) and smart scripting from Nikhil Mehrotra. The sharp edits by Ballu Saluja allow for a haiku like affect while Jay I Patel’s eye-pleasing camerawork keeps the intimate flow of visuals, words and movements intriguing. Panga may not be a deep enough exploration of a woman’s mind but it is definitely a sparingly executed and amusing one!