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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Panga Movie Review: Kangana’s Earthy, Uplifting Fight for Dreams

Panga promises to be another compelling, slice-of-life film by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwary, with a balanced portion of humour and poignancy.

Like her previous films Nil Battey Sannata and Bareilly Ki Barfi, this too aims to present the extraordinary tale of small-town inhabitants.

The movie promises to be an emotional roller coaster tale of a middle-class Indian woman – Jaya (Kangana Ranaut) forgotten kabaddi world champion.

She catalyses an inner desire to give a new meaning to her existing role as a wife and mother, taking an ingenious decision to come back to the sport despite the challenges of age stereotypes.

Plus, she also tackles new generation complexities which creates an upheaval in her life as she is torn between family responsibility and love for the sport.

Consistent with her previous films, Iyer Tiwary adapts a very realistic narrative style. From the sets to character sketches, everything is rooted in authenticity.

At no point, does the filmmaker take cinematic liberties to create a ‘larger-than-life’ vision.

This simplicity in storytelling works as a great advantage because the realism helps in creating a relatable atmosphere.

Thus, the characters of Jaya Nigam and her husband Prashant (Jassie Gill) are not limited to the big screen, but can easily be anyone’s story.

A special mention goes to Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s melodious soundtrack beautifully complements the narrative.

Songs like ‘Panga Title Track’, ‘Jugnu’ and ‘Dil Ne Kaha’ are so catchy and foot-tapping, they have potential to be chartbusters.

Despite the story focusing on the female protagonist, Ashwiny does not make this a gender-driven and the onus is on making the most out of one’s life… Especially during the second innings.

It’s a mature underdog story in which again the director follows the template of a woman beyond societal paradigms guiding another, who is trying to rise above conventions.

In Nil Battey Sannata, this was shown through Sawara Bhaskar and Ratna Pathak Shah’s characters.

In Panga, this is depicted through the roles essayed by Kangana and Richa Chadha.

Furthermore, both the movies also exhibited children to be the driving force for the leads to achieve a better life… Or view life from a different lens.

Through including such themes, Ashwiny projects motherhood in a formidable way, without it being filmy or overtly sentimental. Her vision is truly a breath of fresh air for Bollywood.

Thankfully, the movie does not spend a long time showcasing the back story. Within 10-15 minutes and a song, the foundation is set.

Plus, the fact that we were already introduced to the characters before this flashback, allows the viewers to get acquainted with them more quickly.

As such, the first half is a breeze and proceeds like in a choppy yet developed manner.

But as expected, the second half is longer due to the sports quotients. The main crux of the story could’ve arrived a lot earlier than its positioning in the film.

Had this been the case, the final product would’ve been much sharper. Having said that though, Tiwary maintains tension like a pro.

Without it veering into melodrama, her directorial during the Kabaddi quotients are subtle and effective, making the sport into an instrumental character.

It’s great to see a homegrown sport like Kabaddi be presented in such a way and about time too!

The performances are organic. Kangana Ranaut completely OWNS the role of Jaya Nigam.

Her body language, mannerisms and speech style is so nuanced that at the time it didn’t feel like fiction. She truly knows how to play a mother with sensibility and compassion

In fact, her character is so endearing that it sticks with you even after the credits roll (just like Rani in Queen).

This definitely ranks amongst Ranaut’s best performances yet. Way to go Kangana!

Jassie Gill‘s character is the idyllic, doted husband and supports his wife at every step. Such a progressive and charming is essayed in a seamless manner.

Gill has confidence and a solid screen presence… He can make a great career of acting in Bollywood movies.

Moreover, his voice (as a singer) is wonderful. Both he and Ranaut share lovely chemistry.

Yagya Bhasin plays Adi the son of Jaya and Prashant.

His brilliant talent speaks louder than his age and is a firecracker on screen. It is a delight to watch him perform and his comic timing is also apt.

Richa Chadha as always is wonderful as Meena – Jaya’s friend and Kabaddi coach. She does her job as the supporting force well and her comedic timing is also sharp.

Although Neena Gupta has limited screen time, her presence is felt strongly in her scenes… That camaraderie between her Ranaut as mother and daughter comes across effectively.

Overall, Panga is an outstanding movie. A movie which entertains and carries a solid feel-good sentiment.

With earnest performances, especially by Kangana Ranaut, it is a wholesome ode to empowerment and the undying human spirit!

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 (4.5/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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