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Film review: 'Dangal' is a rousing study of the quest for perfection – and Aamir is the perfect lead

Nitesh Tiwari’s biopic of Mahavir Singh Phogat and his champion wrestler daughters Geeta and Babita makes it clear that daddy knows best

As a study of single-minded dedication, Nitesh Tiwari’s biopic Dangal could not have had a a more apt lead: an actor known for his perfectionism and deep involvement with the projects he chooses. Aamir Khan is perfectly cast as Mahavir Singh Phogat, the remarkable head of a singular family of female wrestlers from Haryana, including the medal-winning Geeta and Babita. Dangal is a chronicle of the industriousness, perseverance and personal sacrifice that produce sporting champions, but it is above all a tribute to obsession. Except for a few scenes, every moment in the 161-minute film reflects Phogat’s dream of making his daughters worthy of winning a gold medal for India. This is the kind of movie in which even small talk involves the words wrestling, medal, hard work, victory, and India.

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‘Dangal’.

Dangal’s themes are set in the opening sequence itself. There’s a wrestling match on television, and Mahavir has abandoned his office work to offer advice to the players grappling on the screen. India will never win a gold medal at this rate, he grumbles, and a burly new employee (Vivan Bhatena) interrupts him: what do you know about wrestling anyway? He finds out to his peril that the man with the brusque manners and the carefully rationed smile isn’t just a former professional wrestler, but somebody who is committed enough to the sport to achieve the unthinkable.

Mahavir turns his perceived social handicap – all daughters and no sons – into his greatest strength. He doesn’t believe in Geeta (Zaira Wasim) and Babita (Suhani Bhatnagar) until he learns one day that they have beaten up two boys who were harassing them. (The screenplay, credited to Tiwari, Shreyas Jain, Nikhil Mehrotra and Piyush Gupta, is led by this seemingly fleeting incident that eventually proves to be momentous.) Mahavir puts his daughters through the wringer, ignoring the protests of his wife Daya (Sakshi Tanwar in an ornamental role), the jeers of his neighbours, and the complaints of his children.

The girls despise their 5am routine, new diet and the shirts and shorts they are forced to wear in order to train better. When they snivel that the mud from the makeshift wrestling pit that Mahavir has carved out of his fields is giving them lice, Mahavir has their hair cut short.

Aamir Khan in ‘Dangal’.
Aamir Khan in ‘Dangal’.

Mahavir’s tough-love approach pays off when Geeta easily defeats boys in local tournaments and emerges as the state champion. The movie focuses on the relationship between Mahavir and his first-born, who is still far away from becoming the first female Indian wrestler to win the gold medal in the 55 kg freestyle category at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Before she conquers the mat, Geeta has to deal with a new routine that is in opposition to the tricks her earthy father has taught her. Every account of heroism needs a villain, and Dangal unearths one in the coach Pramod (Girish Kulkarni), who demands that Geeta disavow her previous training.

The tensions between father and daughter at this point offer a chance to provide a psychological understanding of Geeta’s journey, but Dangal’s filmmakers let the opportunity slip. Unlike sports biopics in the West, which value the importance of the athlete’s quest for personal achievement that is above patriotism and national glory, Dangal is clear that the only reason Mahavir risks social opprobrium is to win a medal for India. There is nothing shameful about individual excellence, but the idea is simply not entertained by Dangal, whose nationalistic fervour reaches its nadir or zenith, take your pick, in the climax.

The best bits are in the first 80-odd minutes, which provide an absorbing portrait of the family dynamics that allow Mahavir to steamroll domestic and external opposition. Geeta and Babita quickly realise that rebelling against their father is useless, and one scene crudely reminds us that without his obstinacy, the girls would have been married off at the first opportunity. Again, it is Mahavir who delivers the progressive message that female athletes must be encouraged and supported as strongly as males.

A movie with less on-the-nose writing and greater interiority would have devoted more time to understanding Mahavir’s radicalism. What was he thinking, really? Khan’s nuanced and compelling performance offers snatches of Mahavir’s mind, but the movie never stops long enough to probe his thoughts on the utter insanity of his project.

 Fatima Sana Shaikh (left) and Sanya Malhotra in ‘Dangal’.
Fatima Sana Shaikh (left) and Sanya Malhotra in ‘Dangal’.

The first sports-based film of 2016 was Saala Khadoos, about a boxing coach and his female slumdog protégé. In Sultan, Salman Khan played a wrestler who exorcised his personal demons to regain his glory. Dangal leaves the other films far behind in its portrayal of the rigours of training and depiction of the sport. Deftly shot by Setu, the film glows with the golden-brown hues of rural Haryana. The wrestling sequences are highly credible and exciting (national-level coach Kripa Shankar Bishnoi trained Khan and the girls), and the decision to allow Geeta’s crucial matches to play out in full rather than being edited down pay rich dividends.

Tiwari’s ability to handle young talent, previously seen in his films Chillar Party and Bhoothnath Returns, is never more evident than in the two girls who play the younger versions of Geeta and Babita. Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra are convincing as the older wrestlers, but the scene stealers are Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar, who play their younger selves. A delightful foil to the hard-working girls is their cousin Omkar (Ritwik Sahore in the younger role and Aparshakti Khurana in the older role), who is ramrodded by Mahavir into providing the girls with a sparring partner.

Nobody turns Mahavir down, and the movie pays handsome tribute to his obduracy. Every age produces the cinema it deserves, and with its insistence on absolute obedience to an authoritarian figure, Dangal is inadvertently a reflection of our times. Daddy truly does know best, and Dangal harbours no doubt whatsoever that his daughters are wise not to question him.

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

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This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

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Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

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Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.