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Panga Movie Review: It Is So Heartwarming, It Will Melt All Your Cynicism

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Panga

Starring Kangna Ranaut. Jassi Gill,  Richa Chadha,Neena  Gupta

Directed  by Ashwini Iyer Tiwari

Rating: *****(5 stars)

 Just when  you thought you have had enough of these  mofussil mellow dramas , you know those slowburn  rom-coms and familiar  family tales with characters  that you’ve met when  you  last visited  Bhopal, Rai Bareilly, Kanpur  or Patna, just when you thought this was the director  Ashiwiny Iyer  Tiwari’s  Bhopal Ki Barfi,  along comes  Panga, a  film so inured in the   magic of  middleclass resilience that  by the end  , when Jaya Nigam scores  that ultimate  goal in the  international  Kabaddi match, I was rooting not just for India, but for the Indian housewife whose dreams are  thwarted  by the bump and grind of daily existence.

So where do I begin to tell you  about the enriching experience of watching Ashwini  Iyer Tiwari’s Panga? Let me  start in the  middle. It is a scene where Jaya Nigam is about to leave her husband

and  son behind in Bhopal to train in Kolkata for the Kabaddi championship. Leaving her  world behind to pursue  a dream she abandoned  many years ago,Jaya  is a nervous wreck.As the train is about to leave , her incredibly-supportive  husband and  endearingly wise son wave a brave  goodbye.

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“You do remember how many whistles the pressure cooker has to give before the daal is ready?” she bleats  pleadingly with her  husband  as the train moves away.

 That  mundane  farewell line of dialogue says  so much about  the film’s protagonist ,and about every woman who  hops on board  that train to complete interrupted dreams. It also says  a lot about the director . It is  no coincidence  that Ashwini  Iyer Tiwari is a wife  and a mother in  real life who must have  faced those very anxieties insecurities  and  career-versus-home dilemmas  that  Jaya faces as she reopens the  book of her  ambitions, with a support system that  every ambitious woman would envy , each  played by an actor who seems  to have lived some of  the character’s warm nurturing nature, if not all.

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The husband  played with such affection and warmth by  Jassi Gill , who in the  jokey words  of  Jaya’s  best friend and Kabbaddi colleague Meenu(Richa Chadha) behaves  more like  a lovestruck  boyfriend than a possessive husband(“Kaun apni  biwi ko itna phone karta hai!”).The  bestfriend played with an emphatic  gusto by  Richa Chadha, the  cranky but supportive mother Neena Gupta,  Jaya’s wise little son(Yagya Bhasin,  whom I want to adopt  immediately) , the  astute Kabbaddi coach (Rajesh Tailang) and last but not the  least the seemingly  hostile captain of the  Kabbaddi team, the team that Jaya Nigam takes to (predictable) victory at the end, her  years of matrimony motherhood and retirement be damned!

Every  performer  is  so in character it seems as though the  director has cast real people  ,not actors. Standing tall  in her role of  smothered aspirations is Kangana Ranaut expressing so  much of her  character’s  yearnings ,fears and insecurities  through her eyes, you wish she would just stop talking.

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Speaking of  talking, Panga has smart  sassy lines of dialogue for  every character even  the incidental ones.  When it comes to quips, director Ashwini and her  writer  Nkhil Mehrohtra just can’t  get enough. But these are words spoken with such lived-in  confidence  you forget they’ve been specially written for the characters.

I’d have probably  forgotten these are characters in a  film and  not people I know  in real life, if there wasn’t so much  background music constantly punctuating the emotions.Panga really needs no prompting to be loved. You  surrender to its affectionate  homage to the housewife’s  revived  dreams wholeheartedly.No  questions asked.