Panga is a simple movie. But it has a strong message.
Without getting preachy and overdramatic, it narrates the story of a woman who gave up her career when she was at her peak, to raise her baby.
The baby is now 7 years old. Like most children, he knows his mother as Mamma and nothing more. He is however aware that she sells tickets at the railway, a job he considers so insignificant that it is not worth missing his sports day at school.
The mean son is told that Mummy could have been so much more, but she gave it all up to raise him into a healthy boy. The child decides that it is time for Mummy to make a comeback. The rest of the movie is about her achieving this comeback despite all challenges on the home and sports front.
A comeback after having a child is difficult in any profession. It is more so in case of Jaya Nigam, as she was once an ace Kabaddi player and captain of the Indian team. Going back to work means competing against younger and fitter women.
There is a lot that works for the movie:
The bitter truth
Jaya Nigam says that she feels happy when she looks at her husband and son. But she does not feel happy when she looks at herself. Yes, motherhood is fulfilling. Marriage is rewarding. But that does not necessarily mean it is everything. A woman’s self-esteem is attached to who she is. And no. She is not somebody’s mother and somebody’s wife. She is someone.
Work life balance for mothers – no balance!
There is a scene in the movie where Jaya’s son tells her that she should have attended his race at school because all other mothers did. He adds that her job is not so important anyway, and she could not even skip it to watch him play. Children can be mean. They have no idea how much parents sacrifice. They do not realize that the ‘insignificant’ job also sucks up the life out of mothers.
Jaya’s husband, Prashant is loving and caring. He wants her to be happy. He supported her after marriage. But when Prashant realizes that his wife needs to be physically away and he has to take care of the cooking, cleaning and the child, he worries for himself.
This is the problem. It is not that (most) men are evil and want to destroy their wife’s careers. A lot of them would like to see their wives happy. But the wife pursuing her career means they would have to do a lot more equal household work and parenting and that is what gets inconvenient.The equality that we wish to achieve causes men to give up on the benefits of patriarchy they have enjoyed for years. And that becomes challenging. They have to make a choice. Do they step up ? Or enjoy the status quo?
It takes a village to raise a child
One aspect that I noted was that when Jaya decides to make a comeback at 32, it is not just her husband who is apprehensive but also her mother . The mother becomes supportive later on, but initially the idea is not thrilling to her, probably because her life will also get disrupted as she will be expected to take care of her daughter’s family, at least in parts. A woman needs a lot of support to raise a family and pursue her career. That is why I get annoyed when privileged women make statements like ‘motherhood is not a sacrifice’. Please go and take a look at the average, middle class homes where you have cannot afford day cares and nannies or may not wish to for other reasons. You do have to make a ‘sacrifice’, as much as we may not like burdening this term on the child who never asked to be born. Also, Jaya’s in-laws are completely missing in the picture. Maybe they have been excluded for the sake of simplicity.
Attention to details
The moms have a ‘mothers’ whatsapp group which applies to most schools. Fathers are added when only when mothers are physically not available.
When the family goes to watch the match, Jaya’s concern is that the child’s school days are getting missed.
Jaya’s mother makes besan ka laddu. Jaya who is trying to lose weight had asks her to use jaggery instead of sugar. She complains that the mother did not make gond ka laddu to which she says last time she made it nobody ate and she found it ‘sada hua’.
At one point Jaya says that she was testing her limits. She has reached her limit and now she wants to go back. She is not sure if she will play in the finals and feels it is better the family leaves that wait in disappointment. The husband is supportive for the most part but does stupid things like making a video call to her to seek help when she has a match. These are not people who are always happy or always confident or always strong unlike some other caricatures Bollywoods likes to dump on us. They are human and act differently depending on their moods (like most people). The match sequence is also kept real and there is a lot of ‘waiting’ before anything happens.
Kangana has not put on much make-up. Her skin does not look so clear, and she had fat on her face and belly like most women. Kangana is one of the best actresses we have today, and she proved it yet again. She can be the diva in Fashion, the weird one in ‘Judgmental hai kya’ and the girl next door or rather the married woman next door. She transitions from being the doting mother to the nervous wannabe player to the sports champion.
Jassi Gill as Jaya’s husband is very likeable and believable. I have not seen him before. The child actor, Yagya Bhasin is a star. Neena Gupta with curly hair as Jaya’s mother has a small role but nonetheless a delight to watch. It is sad that Bollywood does not have much to offer to these gifted actors. Richa Chadhha as Meenu is funny. She is the opposite of Jaya – the woman who is single and pursued her career without any distractions. The other characters, Nisha Das, the coach and the ‘bhabhi’ neighbor who watches the son have all done very well.
Watch this movie to get inspired. Watch it to know that it is okay to not feel enough. Watch it to know that it is okay to take a panga with yourself and push your limits.