Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s ‘Dangal’, an upcoming biopic on Haryanvi wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat for which he has begun shooting in villages near Ludhiana, is clearly one of the most talked about Bollywood films. In a tête-à-tête with writer and director Nitesh Tiwari at Ludhiana’s Radisson Blu MBD, he tells us that his film is more than just an inspirational film and terms it as a story that ‘deserves to be told’. Excerpts from the interview…
Tell why you think it is a story that ‘deserves to be told’?
In our society, especially in backward areas, most families want a son to carry forward their legacy and if they end up with daughters, very few give them equal opportunities. But Phogat, who hails from Balali village near Bhiwani in Haryana, encouraged all his four daughters to become wrestlers. Out of his four daughters, two - Geeta and Babita - won gold and silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, respectively. The film will also focus on how he coached them personally against all odds ignoring people who made fun of him for preparing his daughters to become wrestlers. What is most astonishing is that he never gave up and proved that if given equal opportunity, daughters are no less than sons.
How did you come across Mahavir Phogat’s story and what made you write a script for a film on it?
For this, I must thank one of my friends who narrated the Phogat’s story to me in just a few lines which were enough to touch my heart. I instantly realised that if written well it could be a highly inspirational story, especially in the society we live in. It took me about a year to pen it down and ensure its authenticity. I met Phogat, his daughters, friends and relatives several times in their native village in Haryana.
Interestingly, you chose Punjab’s villages for shooting the film. It could also be shot in Haryana’s villages. Why did you make that choice?
It was a creative call as Punjab’s villages are more authentic and perfectly matched the script and how I imagined my sets to be. Villages like Kila Raipur and Gujjarwal have still preserved their old-world charm.
At what point in life did you realise that you wanted to write and direct films? What kind of films do you want to make in the future?
I do not want to restrict myself to a particular genre. It all depends on what touches my heart. Coming to my writing, it began while I was doing my BTech in computer engineering in Mumbai. I would keep writing short stories, poems and plays even during lectures and with ‘Chillar Party’ (2011), I finally realised my dream, followed by ‘Bhoothnath Returns’ and ‘Kill Dil’ last year.
How does it feel to direct Aamir Khan, the ‘Mr Perfectionist’?
Directing him is certainly a dream come true. I am very grateful to him as he accepted the story in our first meeting and gave me the opportunity to direct him. I salute his dedication to play Phogat which is an inspiration for the entire cast and crew. Though we call him ‘Mr Perfectionist’, he believes that learning never stops.
Besides the story, what other elements did Aamir appreciate in your script?
Though the story was a challenge to conceive, he appreciated the script for its humour, which he thinks will connect to youngsters who can carry Phogat’s mindset and spirit forward.