Dangal (2016) starring Aamir Khan

NOTE: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.

Indian superstar Aamir Khan is known as a perfectionist, even when it comes to posters.  When I lived in NYC, I used to regularly attend monthly meetings of SAWCC (South Asian Women’s Creative Collective); though I wasn’t an artist (like most of the women), I wanted to meet interesting desis.  One night, we had a presentation by the young lady who’d worked as the main graphic artist on Lagaan (before moving to the U.S.)  She was working late in her Mumbai studio, when Aamir Khan called her up re: a small change to one of the poster designs.  Wow, talk about attention to detail!

Young Mahavir (Aamir Khan) gets ready for a wrestling match.

This film will definitely hold the viewers’ attention, even more so than Lagaan, thanks in part to its exciting/tense action sequences.  But this isn’t a historical epic, it’s a (real-life) family story, which MAY be even more compelling to some of you who regularly read this blog.  I didn’t know anything about the story before going to see it last week, aside from the fact that Aamir had gained and lost a LOT of weight for his role.  I later learned that three out of the four (VERY natural) young actresses in the film hadn’t acted before!  I esp. liked the chemistry between the two girls who played the sisters as pre-teens, as well as the charm of their older teen boy cousin. 

Life is sink or swim- a lesson that Mahavir wants his daughters to learn.

Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir Khan), a former national wrestling champion, wins medals and respect in the ’80s.  Unfortunately, he never gets the opportunity to prove himself on the world stage; there is NOT enough money/resources dedicated to his sport.  He loves wresting, so he spends time training other men in the mud pits of his village.  After a time, Mahavir settles into married life (w/ his wife Daya, played by Shakshi Tanwar) and a desk job in his home region of Hariyana.  He has high hopes for a son, whom he plans to teach to be an even better wrestler than himself, and win gold for India. 

Young Geeta is cheered by surprised locals after winning matches.

His wife gives birth to four daughters though the years.  Mahavir’s family and his small community is disappointed, thinking that the dream for wrestling glory is dead.  But after his two eldest girls, Geeta (Zaira Wasim) and Babita (Suhani Bhatnager), beat up two local boys who insulted them, Mahavir is spurred into action.  His daughters will become wrestlers under his coaching!  Gold is still gold, Mahavir is bold enough to think, and who’s to say that a girl can’t win one!?  Watch the trailer below.


Jason Brown & Patrick Chan: “Artists” on Ice

Jason Brown (USA)

Did you watch Jason Brown’s (USA) SP last night?   The 19 y.o. boy-next-door performed VERY well, impressing BOTH the crowd & judges at Sochi. 

Here is the 2014 U.S. Nationals vid that is now almost at 4 million views: 

A younger (16 y.o.) Jason talks about his daily routine to local TV station:

Patrick Chan (CAN)

23 y.o. gold-medal hopeful Patrick Chan (& fellow countrymen) discuss Canadian Men’s luck at Olympics:

One-on-one interview w/ Patrick (by then 2-time World Champion) on Canadian TV:

2013 World Championships SP:

2013 World Championships LP:

I totally fell IN LOVE w/ his skating here!  A younger (19 y.o.) Patrick, mature way beyond his years (artistically), performs his SP at 2010 Vancouver Olympics:

One of Patrick’s influences is (no doubt) the great Ukranian skater Viktor Petrenko, one of my faves.  The sense of romance/storytelling he creates ice is reminiscent of fellow Canadian Kurt Browning.  Here is his LP at 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where he made a mark, but was out of medal contention (due to a few errors and fall on triple axel jump): 

Olympic Figure Skating Times

Thursday: Team event, men’s and pairs’ short programs. TV: 8-11 p.m., NBC (delayed). 

*NOTE: The team event is a new one at these Olympics. 
Saturday: Team event, ice dance short dance, ladies’ short program, pairs’ free skate. TV: 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network; 8-11:30 p.m., NBC (delayed). 
Feb. 9: Team event, men’s and ladies’ free skate, ice dance free dance. TV: 10 a.m.-1 p.m., NBC Sports Network; 7-11 p.m., NBC (delayed). 
Feb. 11: Pairs’ short program. TV : 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network; 8-11:30 p.m., NBC (delayed). 
Feb. 12: Pairs’ free skate. TV: 10 a.m.-2 p.m., NBC Sports Network; 8-11:30 p.m., NBC (delayed). 
Feb. 13: Men’s short program. TV: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., NBC Sports Network; 8-11:30 p.m., NBC (delayed). 
Feb. 14: Men’s free skate. TV: 10 a.m.-2:15 p.m., NBC Sports Network; 8-11:30 p.m., NBC (delayed). 
Feb. 16: Ice dance short dance. TV: 10 a.m.-2 p.m., NBC Sports Network; 7-11 p.m. and 11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m., NBC (delayed). 
Feb. 17: Ice dance free dance. TV: 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network; 8-11:30 p.m. and 1-2 a.m., NBC (delayed).
Feb. 19: Ladies’ short program. TV: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., NBC Sports Network; 8-11:30 p.m., NBC (delayed). 
Feb. 20: Ladies’ free skate. TV: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., NBC Sports Network; 8-11:30 p.m., NBC (delayed).

Memorable Programs in Figure Skating (Pairs)

1988 Olympics:

Soviet skaters Ekaterina Gordeeva (just 16; nicknamed Katya) and partner Sergei Grinkov (21) are already World Champions known for their speed, split triple twist (she goes up VERY high), and Katya’s presence on the ice.  But they are still growing and learning (as we see in the profile below). 

Short Program (SP): It went pretty well, but wasn’t perfect.  We can see that Katya and Sergei wanted it to be better (ever the technicians).

Long Program (LP): They skated with such ease, kept up the speed, and had a flawless program!  Katya (looking like a young Natalie Portman) clearly enjoys being on the ice. 

1988 Worlds:

Isabelle Brasseur & Lloyd Eisler (CAN) were my favorite Pairs team growing up!  I loved their wonderful lifts and fast spins, which rivaled the dominant Soviet teams.  The confident/tall/English-speaking Lloyd (who was 7 years older) had skated w/ several different partner earlier, but shy/petite/French-speaking Isabelle was the match for him on ice.  They continued to work on their style over the years, in order to be compete with the best European teams.  They were Canda’s darlings, and U.S. audiences liked the excitement and sense of fun in their programs (esp. in exhibitions).     

SP: The music is great!  Isabelle is only 17; Lloyd is 24.

LP: At 1:50 mark, Lloyd lifts Isabelle with one arm- WOW!  They put in a good showing here.

1991 Worlds:

Brasseur & Eisler’s SP: Josee Picard. their coach, tells the story of how this pair got together.  Then, we have the peppy, fun-filled program which suits them quite well.  Their double twist is one of the BEST you’ll ever see!   

B&E’s LP:  They go for the gold here, but reach silver, though their program is quite impressive.  At 1:40, Lloyd lifts Isabelle up, then over his head.  The one-armed press star lift (one of their signature moves) is at 3:20; this displays Lloyd’s strength and Isabelle’s fearlessness. 

1992 Olympics:

Profile of B&E:

Mishkutenok & Dmitriev’s SP: Artur is one of the most strongest and dramatic (expressive) male pair’s skaters.  Natalia has incredible flexibility.  The costumes are to die for!  The spin they invented is at 2:55.

M&D’s LP: The Soviet Union has been broken up, but these skaters win the gold with their lyrical program. 

1994 Olympics:

There was a showdown between the Russians- G&G (now married w/ a little girl; back from pro skating) and the dramatic duo of M&D.  B&E did their best on the world stage up to that point; Isabelle had cracked ribs (so had them bandaged up tight before competing). 

G&G profile & SP: Their life was like a fairy tale (at that time).

M&D’s SP: Artur collapsed on the ice after finishing- the pair really put a lot of passion into this program.

B&E’s SP: They didn’t get as high as I’d hope on technical marks.  Isabelle showed so much spirit here, but then was calm/collected when the marks came. 

B&E’s LP: The Canadians did their nation proud with their flawless program; long-time fans could see that Lloyd had worked on his artistry. I loved the music and costumes they chose. 

M&D’s LP: It was very creative and passionate, but not quite enough for gold.  My dad and I preferred their style over G&G, though both teams were great. 

G&G’s LP: It wasn’t flawless, but the judges gave the gold to this superb pair.  My mom liked this team best.  This was one of the BEST competitions! 

Meryl Davis & Charlie White: Ready for gold!

UPDATE, 12/17:  David & White won the gold in ice dance- a first for the US!  It was a TERRIFIC free dance competition, w/ many couples skating at their best (including the Shibutanis, Chock & Bates, & the younger Russians)!  The sport has come a LONG way since the days of block judging.  YAY!!! 

Ice dancing gold is for Russians, right?  Not anymore!  In 2010, Meryl Davis (age 27) and Charlie White (age 26) won Olympic silver.  They are also both attend the University of Michigan part-time.  Davis & White won gold at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships (the first for the U.S. in ice dance)  This team keeps getting better and better- I fell IN LOVE with them (again) watching their current programs!  

One of our strengths is that we never set a ceiling for ourselves.  -Charlie White

Short Dance (SD): In the past, there were 2 compulsory dances (CDs) & an original dance (OD), but now these have been combined into the Short Dance.  (Long-time ice dance fans have seen MANY changes and drama over the years!)  The CDs were purely to show the team’s technical abilities on the ice; they were routine and often seemed boring and unnecessary. 

Meryl brings to mind the great Russian female ice dancers of a bygone time- petite frame, light footing, posture, and unusually-colored dark red hair.  (I think that color is an homage to Marina Anissina, the Russian ice dancer who skater for France just a few years ago.)  Their coach, Marina Zoueva, hails from the former Soviet Union.  Charlie, on the other hand, is strong, energetic, and fun (showing his American-ness, but also bringing to mind French ice dancer Gwendal Peizerat, Anissina’s long-time partner).  Their success isn’t magic- they’ve been partnered for 16 years! 

Free Dance (FD): The free dance is where teams get to show all their stuff (artistic, technical); they better bring it (since technical elements like spins and lifts are a major part of ice dance now).  I love these elements, but not when they don’t fit with the choreography.  As the late Dick Button said of this sport: “Two shall dance as one.”   

Behind-the-scenes look at Davis & White’s rise:   

Olympic ice dancers’ moms ‘bring a little bit of home’ to Sochi (TODAY segment)

Michigan ice dancers Meryl Davis, Charlie White make perfect pair (Detroit Free Press)