‘Dangal is an insult to all coaches’

MUMBAI, December 28
While Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan’s latest potboiler ‘Dangal,’ which released to packed houses last Friday, may have become a superhit at the box-office, its fictional content has left a 70-year-old in Phagwara ‘hurt.’The film, loosely based on the life and struggles of wrestling coach Mahavir Phogat and his daughters Geeta and Babita, potrays India’s wrestling coach at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in extremely poor light. In fact, the climax of the movie shows that the jealous coach even went to the extent of getting Mahavir locked up in a room while Babita was fighting her gold medal bout against an Australian wrestler, so that he couldn’t coach his daughter from the stands.
PR Sondhi happens to be the coach who has been painted as a villain in the film. “I haven’t seen the film, but people have told me about how I’ve been projected in it. I believe there’s a disclaimer in the beginning that parts of the film are fictional, but I must say that this is an insult to the whole coaching community, not just me. If I find it objectionable, I’ll discuss the issue with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), who hired me. I have nothing against Aamir, though. I met him in Ludhiana during the making of the film, and I’m sure that when he knows the reality, he’ll feel sorry about this,” Sondhi, who coached the Indian women’s team from 2009 to 2014 told TOI from Phagwara on Wednesday. Sondhi claims that the reality was exactly opposite to what transpires in the film. “I’ve great relations with Mahavir and his daughters. In fact, I’ve been mentioned in a positive light by the journalists who’ve written books about them. I once helped Geeta, who had lost her passport at the last minute, make it to an international event. Mahavir never interfered with my coaching, as they’ve apparently shown in the film,” explained Sondhi, who was the coach of the men’s Indian wrestling team when Sushil Kumar won a bronze at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Speaking on a TV channel on Tuesday night, the film’s director, Nimish Tiwary, defended the controversial climax of the film, which sees Geeta clinching the CWG gold for India in the absence of her father. “We needed to dramatise it. Otherwise, how would the final have looked different from her semifinal and quarterfinal clash,” he said.

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