"Tumhara khayal kaun rakhega? Ma. Ma rakhegi tumhara khayal."
Kangana Ranaut delivers this dialogue to her prematurely born child, who needs extra attention because his immune system is weak. At that instant, she completely forgets her dream of returning to kabaddi as a national level player.
And this sums up the theme of Ashwiny Iyer's sports drama - that a mother's love often overpowers a woman's desires.
Panga is the story of a national-level star kabaddi player, Jaya Nigam, whose unexpected pregnancy forces her to take a step back from the game. Her love for the game takes a backseat but is never forgotten. As her husband Prashant (an absolutely delightful Jassie Gill) reminds their precocious son Aditya, teen cheezon ko leke badi sensitive hai - tu, main, aur kabaddi.
The first half of the film is a subtle reminder of the many ways in which we take mothers/wives for granted. Even though Prashant's sense of humor, charm, and understanding paint him as the perfect husband, he--like most men--is lost when it comes to household chores.
Just like Aditya's admiration for his mother is often intermingled with the demands he makes of her. Demands that range from pizza treats to permissions.
It is only when Aditya realizes what exactly his mother gave up, that he begins to push her to 'make a comeback'. What begins as an attempt to fulfill her son's 'demand', slowly but surely transforms into her own desire. And thus begins Jaya's journey of reclaiming the dreams she'd sacrificed at the altar of motherhood.
As far as the story goes, it resonates with every mother--irrespective of her background--who has worked at a 'job' other than just motherhood.
However, where the story lags is in the second half when the focus shifts to her sports journey. Because from training montages to sports adversaries and the winning sports maneuver, we've seen it all, multiple times. Having said that, the film's true win lies in its power-packed performances and hilarious one-liners.
Kangana Ranaut delivers a solid performance as a mother constantly wracked with guilt for choosing herself over her family. She is neither aggressive in her anger nor melodramatic in her meltdowns. And whether it's a moment of tender love or quite indignation, her expressions ring true in every scenario.
Yagya Bhasin and Jassie Gill's chemistry is adorable and hilarious. To every wisecrack comment that Adi (Yagya) delivers, Prashant (Jassie) has an undeniably sweet response. One, that without a doubt, wins over the audience.
And despite a limited screen presence, Neena Gupta and Richa Chadha deliver memorable performances.
Ashwiny Iyer returns to a mother's story after Nil Battey Sannata - only this time, her focus has moved beyond motherhood. And in doing so, Ashwiny delivers a story that gently portrays how triumphs of motherhood often exact a cost - one measured in the ambitions sacrificed.
Panga reminds us why it is important to save a woman's desires from a mother's guilt and be a support system for the pillar of support that more often than not, keeps a family running.