A short track in Priyanka Chopra-starrer MARY KOM  Dealing with the hero coming back to boxing after motherhood. It gave a good idea of how women go through when they return to sports after giving birth and it is very difficult for them not only physically but mentally as well. Now Ashwini Iyer Tiwari of NIL BATTEY SANNATA  and BAREILLY KI BARFI  Fame, takes this aspect as a central consideration for her next film, PANGA, starring Kangana Ranaut in the lead role. So does PANGA manage to touch entertainment as well? Or does it fail to entice? Let us analyze.
PANGA is the story of a mother who is trying to fulfill her dreams. Jaya Nigam (Kangana Ranaut) is a supporter in kabaddi. She slowly gets up and also becomes the captain of the Indian Kabaddi team. He, meanwhile, marries Prashanth (Jassi Gill) and becomes pregnant just before leaving for a big tournament. She still convinces her seniors that she will be back soon. However, her son is born premature and with a very weak immune system. Doctors inform them that they have to take very good care of the child and only then their normal growth will occur. Jaya therefore gives up her dream. She works in railways and divides her time between her work and raising her son Adi (Yajna Bhasin). 7 years passed. Jaya is finding it difficult to fulfill the responsibilities given to her. Shivaay meets Meenu (Richa Chadha), who was in Jaya’s team and still plays kabaddi. One day, Adi suggests that his mother should return to kabaddi. He convinces Prashanth and the two start Naga Jaya. Jaya is unsure as she feels that she is old and is not fit. Prashant suggests that Jaya should pretend to return and after a month, she can claim that she was not selected. Jaya therefore begins her practice. At first, it is difficult for him but soon, he gets excited about the whole process. After a long time, she realizes that she is finally living her life. Two months pass and one day, she tells Prashanth that she wants to continue practicing and tries to get into the Indian team. What happens next makes the rest of the film.
The research and concept of Divya Rao is quite good and simple. The story has a lot of potential and is also a little unique. We have had sports films in the past, but a film on the returning mother has not been seen as the main plot. The screenplay by Nikhil Mehrotra and Ashwini Iyer Tiwari (additional screenplay of Nitesh Tiwari) also maintains simplicity and relativity. The writing is full of some entertaining moments, which maintain interest. On Flipside, it could have been tight, especially towards the second half. In addition, the film provides a heavy decor of the dangle . Nikhil Mehrotra and Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s dialogues (dialogues apart from Nitesh Tiwari) are one of the highpoints. Some one-liners, specifically spoken by the child artist, will bring the house down.
Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s direction is good. It is clear that his personal experiences are also kept in the film. Some sequences are handled very cleverly. The finale is particularly great and will be greeted with claps and whistles. The beauty of it is that you know what’s going to happen and as of now, you can’t help but feel the excitement when it unfolds. Furthermore, to see that Jaya is supported by her husband, her son, her mother, her bestie and even her neighbor, she is quite heartbroken and will be especially loved by the female audience . On the flipside, except for the end, the script predicts the long length as well as the effect. Jaya’s flashback does not really make it clear that she has achieved such heights of stardom. Also, Prashant looked sad when Jaya announced plans to make a comeback, but that was not the case, as later revealed. It was a little shocking and could be handled better.
PANGA is a good start to show the life of small town with a focus on Jaya’s family and their day to day tasks. A lot happens in the first half – Meenu comes back into her life, Jaya remembers playing days, Jaya gets flak from Adi, Jaya’s flashbacks and Jaya’s practice session. The first half is surprisingly just 51 minutes long. However, the portion of the post interval is of a duration of about 1 hour 18 minutes and can be shortened. It is to be seen how Jaya balances between her passion and her family, and the politics that goes into the selection of the team. But the pace of the film is slow here and at the same time, the training session is also long. Jaya also gets a chance to not play for most matches. Thankfully the climax is powerful which helps to end the film on a high note.
PANGA Kangana Ranaut figures prominently, though others do well. The actress, as always, performs a smashing performance and not for a second does she walk away from the character. As Jaya Maa, she is quite adorable and determined. And as Jaya also the player, he is comfortable. Jassi Gill gives competent support and her character will be loved. But he grins a little bit, especially in the flashback parts, and it makes him look like a caricature. Yajna Bhasin is a rockstar. He gets to play a great role and he enhances the mood of the film in many places. Richa Chadha is credited as a special appearance part but her lead role. She makes a huge contribution to the film not only in terms of comedy, but also in the moral support needed for Jaya. Megha Burman (Nisha Das) has a late entry, but leaves a big impression. Neena Gupta (Jaya’s mother) is inactive. Rajesh Taillang (Indian national coach) is good and an actor to watch. Smita Dwivedi (Smita Tambe, team captain), Kusum Shastri (Jaya’s neighbor), Sudhanwa Deshpande (Indian Railway Coach) and Shantanu Das (Eastern Railway Coach) are decent.
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music is soulful, but not memorable. ‘Bibby Song’Title track and ‘Jugnu’ Ok while ‘Dil Ne Kaha’ And ‘Wahi Hain Raste’ Are forgettable. Sanchit Balhara and Ankit Balhara’s background score is subtle, but loud in the scene where Adi tells Prashanth that Jaya should make a comeback.
Jai I Patel’s cinematography is fine in important kabaddi scenes, but in some scenes, it is quite face-to-face. Sandeep Meher’s production design is straight from life. The costumes of Rushi Sharma, Manishi Nath and Bhagyashree Rajurkar also add to the authenticity. Special mention must go to Sunita Vishwas Rao (Kabaddi Co-Ordinator), Gauri Wadekar (Kabaddi Coach and Choreographer) and Abdul Salam Ansari (Kabaddi Action Director) for making the kabaddi scenes so rich and real. The editing of Ballu Saluja should have been slow.
Overall, PANGA is a progressive and poignant sports drama that works thanks to its plot, execution, some of the best moments and of course Kangana Ranaut’s brilliant performance. At the box office, it faced stiff competition from STREET DANCER 3D as well as released TANHAJI: UNSUNG WARRIOR and would therefore require a strong word to succeed.