It is interesting how a story about a young mother making a comeback to her profession should warrant a title such as Panga. We understand this, as we see in the film, it is nothing short of upsetting the apple cart, rocking the boat, being audacious, and so on.
And so, we meet Jaya (Kangana Ranaut, remarkable), who is fooling herself that she’s content with everyday domestic responsibilities and a job that keeps her small. She takes joy in sending little notes in the lunch-boxes she packs for her husband and son. She thinks everything is ok, ignoring a gaping hole in the soul that gently gnaws at her. Isn’t this true of everyone who ignores their life’s calling to do things that society tells us to do?
And so, this talented sportsperson, once a Kabaddi national-level captain, keeps herself busy with ‘everyday routine’. When her family (husband and child) encourages her to make a comeback to the sport, she is fraught with excitement and challenged by the physical limitations of age and lack of practice. As she sets on this journey of rediscovering her equation with a sport she is deeply passionate about, her family steps up and offers continuous support.
The child encourages her, giving the example of Serena Williams returning to tennis after becoming a mother. Jaya’s mother, dismissive at first, chips in to help around the house while she’s away. And the one person that stands by her through everything is husband Prashant (Jassi Gill with his dazzling smile).
This equation reminds one of Mary Kom (2014). In the film too, Kom makes a comeback after pregnancy and becoming a mom. We then see Kom’s super-cool husband Onler being the strong, steady support in her life.
As far as partner support goes, Tumhari Sulu (2017) starring Vidya Balan is an interesting study. Sulu’s husband is caught between his desire to support her, and what society expects him to be (an authority who must reign in the wife). So, while he happily presses Sulu’s tired feet after a long day, he also gets affected by his wife’s newfound independence. The film takes a cop-out route keeping both parties placated and happy.
In Panga, the support of the husband is truly tested. But he remains steadfast even when his initial enthusiasm wears out. Even where there is food to be cooked, clothes to be folded, and the child’s annual day make-up to be done. It’s a reverse shoutout to the innumerable tasks women do every day.
Reminds one of the Mission Mangal scene — the amount of work Tara’s scientist character has to do before going to the office is not funny, and dare I say, inhumane. We see her handling children and elders, a nagging husband, and unending household chores even as she’s almost out of breath by the time she’s leaving for work.
Which is why Panga ends on such a brilliant note. It is only when everyone does their share of work at home, that everyone in the family can pursue their passions and live genuinely fulfilled lives.
We have all heard the quote, ‘behind every successful man, is a woman’. It’s time to take panga with this thinking and allow both partners to be support-systems of each other.
Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2