Not many know that in 2012, a short article about Indian Olympic wrestling coach Mahavir Singh Phogat in a leading newspaper, which caught the attention of one of UTV’s creative executives Divya Rao. Inspired by the story of Mahavir Singh Phogat’s decision to train his two daughters in wrestling, a sport commonly perceived as a man’s domain, Divya began storyboarding her thoughts into a movie on the Phogats. A small spark which struck her four years ago had led to the production of one of India’s most anticipated movies of the year.
When Rao first pitched Dangal’s story to Siddharth Roy Kapur and other senior members of the UTV team, they instantly fell in love with the concept and found the story inspirational enough to feature it on the big screen. The next step was to bring someone on board who had the talent and passion to pen the story and direct it. they found the best choice with Nitesh Tiwari, who had just co-written and co-directed their heart-warming film Chillar Party. Tiwari immediately saw the heart and soul in the story and set off for Haryana with Rao to meet Mahavir Singh Phogat and his wrestler-daughters. Convening the Phogats was very easy, and once they agreed to tell their story to the world and Tiwari penned a script that brought it to life, UTV approached none other than Aamir Khan to essay the character of Mahavir Singh on the big screen. He loved Tiwari’s narration instantly – and the rest, as they say, is history!
The story of Dangal (‘wrestling’), revolves around the extraordinary life of Mahavir Singh, an ex-wrestler who could never accomplish his dream of winning an international gold medal for India in the sport. While he has to give up on his dream due to financial pressures, Mahavir Singh pacifies himself and resolves under the hope that his would be son would one day realize his dream. However, destiny has other plans. Over almost two decades he and his wife are blessed with four children, all girls, and Mahavir Singh loses hope.
But when one day, his elderst daughter Geeta, at 14 years old, and her sibling Babita, now 12 years old, bash up some grownup boys from the neighbourhood for teasing them, he realizes that his daughters have what it takes to be world-class wrestlers. Hope kicks back in his life and he sees a potential for them to be trained as wrestlers. After all, a gold medal is a gold medal whether a boy wins it or a girl.
What follows is a relentless pursuit of Mahavir Singh, over a period of 10 years, in making his daughters world-class wrestlers. He leaves no stone unturned, training them with boys, like boys, to beat boys in various local village wrestling tournaments. He removes every temptation that comes between his daughters and wrestling. He makes sure they don’t just fight, but fight to win. Set against all odds, the story explores the grit and determination he has against all odds, as he bravely embraces all criticism from the society, the lack of money, apathy from officials and much more, but never gives up…all to see India win Gold.