You could blame the universe for conspiring to name a film starring Kangana Ranaut as Panga; or perhaps it was a conscious decision taken by the makers once the actor came on board. Whatever may be the case, Panga is an honest, relatable film that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.
A sincere ode to motherhood and those countless sacrifices that a woman – as a mother and a wife – makes for her family, director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari's Panga presents the minutiae of our daily lives as compelling cinema. It is also the story of hope and how dreams don't come with an expiry date.
This slice-of-life drama is an immersive experience with its simplicity and endearing narrative. And to top it all, you are treated to some great performances right from the word go.
Watch the trailer of "Panga" here
Jaya Nigam (Kangana Ranaut), a middle-class woman working in Northern Railways, is a former kabaddi champion and captain of India's women kabaddi team. While she continued playing the sport after her marriage to Prashant (Jassie Gill), she leaves her dream midway after she becomes a mother. Seven years later, when her son Adi (Yagya Bhasin) gets to know 'all that his mom could do but didn't' because she chose her family over her passion, he decides to push her to make a comeback, at the age of 32.
What begins as Jaya's efforts to please her son soon reignites something deeper within her. She decides to earn a spot in the national kabaddi team, and her struggle to compete with young girls, regain her fitness, learn the tricks of the sport all over again and and make her family proud keep you invested for the next two hours.
After Nil Battey Sannata and Bareilly Ki Barfi, Ashwiny has once again made a film that leaves an impact without being too heavy on your heart or mind. It's the subtlety with which she has narrated Panga that deserves applause. And the local flavor — be it Bhopal, Mumbai, Kolkata or Delhi — that she blends in the script and characters are something you can't miss.
The story is ably backed by some superlative performances. Kangana is in her element and once again proves why she's a star who doesn't belong to any league of actors, but has a niche of her own. She lets you connect with Jaya in whatever she does — the way she speaks, dresses, cries, laughs, goes to work, takes care of her family and amid all this, wants to be happy for herself.
Richa Chadha as Meenu, Jaya's best friend and a kabaddi coach, gives a nuanced performance while staying true to her boisterous and badass character. She brings in moments of laughter too with her Bihari accent. Neena Gupta as Jaya's mother shines in the limited screen time she gets, especially in the scene when she's telling her daughter to not forget what her mother did for her.
Jassie Gill is good and grabs your attention whenever he's there but you don't miss him in his absence. Although he's shown to have a great comfort and chemistry with Kangana, his expressions don't say much.
It is the youngest member of the cast, Kangana's onscreen son Adi who truly lights up the screen. Mind you, the little boy has been given some clever lines and comic punches too that he delivers confidently. For instance when he tells his father,
"Bhagwan ka roop hoon, jooth nahi bolunga. Aapko Ganga nahane ka mauka de raha hoon," sound innocent yet funny.Written by Ashwiny along with her husband Nitish Tiwari, and Nikhil Mehrotra, Panga has some emotionally charged moments and there's a constant attempt to top them up with a streak of comedy to keep them light.
I loved the way each and every character is well etched and never appear as caricatures. The screenplay that connects Jaya's present day life to a flashback that shows her as a young, vibrant kabaddi player has been beautifully knitted together. He film celebrates life, relationships, friendships, bonds and more than anything, the desire to make yourself happy.
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music goes well with the narrative and at no point the songs being played in the background seem out of the place.
The only thing that somewhere doesn't go down well with Panga is its pace. There are some scenes that look a bit stretched, and while you know what's going to happen next, the wait only seems longer.
Other than that, this wholesome family film is a must watch for the way it is told, for being real and for the emotional chord it strikes with you from the very beginning.