If you haven’t watched the new Indian movie Dangal it’s highly recommended. It’s an entertaining movie that will get you on a rollercoaster, emotionally. Throughout the movie, I smiled I laughed out loud and I must admit I almost had a tear or two. But there was something more interesting I got out of this movie and I only realized it after watching it. It reminded me a lot about our very own weightlifting champion Dika Toua.
Now, before I go on about the relative similarities between Dangal and Dika, it might help to give you a brief run-down on the plot, especially for those who haven’t watched it yet. I won’t give it all away but it will help understand the comparisons I’ve drawn.
So here it is.
Mahavir Singh Phogat (played by one of my favorite Bollywood actors Aamir Khan) is a former champion Indian wrestler. Despite a lot of promise to win India’s very first gold in wrestling, his sporting career comes to an abrupt halt when he can no longer compete due to financial difficulties. He leaves his beloved job for formal employment. His dream remains a dream until he gets married and his hopes of realizing it is ignited when his wife becomes pregnant. Unfortunately, after four pregnancies, his wife gives birth to four lovely girls and he realizes that his dream will remain a dream. He accepts reality and moves on. But his dream is rekindled when the parents of two boys visit him and his wife telling them that their two eldest daughters Greeta and Babita have physically beaten their two boys. While apologizing to the parents, Mahavir sees a glimpse of hope that her daughters might just be the answer to realizing his dream. Mahavir then takes these girls on a grueling training regime much to the dismay of his wife as well as the girls. Mahavir’s training of these girls becomes the talking point of the village mainly because the villagers have a stereotypical view that girls are supposed to stay in the house, cook, clean the house, have children and look after them. Mahavir’s approach, even to the extent of cutting the girls hair, falls out of line with this stereotypical view amongst the villagers but he does not budge.
There’s more to it but that’s where I’ll stop now.
So how does this movie in part remind me of the stories I’ve read about the rise and success of Dika Toua.
For a start, both Dika and Greeta are females competing in a male dominated sport – weightlifting and wrestling respectively. Like Greeta, Dika’s participation in weightlifting came as quite a surprise to her villagers in Hanuabada because the sport was foreign and that weightlifting was considered more of a male sport. And it’s amazing how Dika has broken this stereotypical view and opened doors for more girls not just to participate in weightlifting but choose any sport they wish to take up regardless of whether it is male dominated sport.
Greeta and Babita were both coached solely by their father Mahavir before both advancing to a higher level to be coached at India’s national sporting institute.
Dika too was first sighted by a fellow villager, Douglas Mea, in the village and in her early career being solely coached by Mea. Mea himself is a success story with an eye for recruiting outstanding athletes and training them to become champion weightlifters. Another notable product of Mea is powerhouse weightlifter and Commonwealth gold medalist Steven Kari.
Like Mahavir, Mea didn’t have the best of facilities only operating from a run-down gym under the mango tree at his home in Hanuabada. Greeta and Babita were trained in a make-shift under-cover yard on the family farm. But the obvious similarities are a determination and commitment to succeed no matter the circumstances.
Babita also followed in her elder sister’s footsteps by winning the national title and representing India in wrestling. Dika too has a sister, Thelma, and she’s currently making rave reviews in her weight division in the Oceania region. Thelma won the first gold for PNG in the 2016 Pacific Games in Port Moresby.
While Greeta won gold in wrestling at the Commonwealth Games, Dika did too in weightlifting at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Like Greeta and Babita, Dika and Thelma have gone on to get more quality coaching and under better equipped gyms in New Caledonia under the mentorship of successful weightlifting personality Paul Coffa.
Greeta under her new coach doesn’t turn out to be as successful as her father continues to give instructions from the spectator area much to the disappointment of her national coach.
It’s a must watch – thoroughly enjoyed it. If a movie was made of Dika Toua, this movie would be quite close to it!
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