1. Disparate Genres, Parallel Strokes: Panga is a sports film directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari who excels in probing smalltown dreams and aspirations. Her debut and sophomore films Nil Batte Sannatta and Rai Bareilly Ki Barfi both worked within their given area of performance. On the other hand, Kangana’s solo-heroine films have not really worked since Tanu Weds Manu and Queen. The fiascos in author-backed title roles include Simran, Rajjo and Revolver Rani.
2. Believable locales versus Aspirational: Street Dancer is a dance film. Remo D’Souza is as much the master of the dance genre as Ashwiny Tiwari is the queen of smalltown rom-com. While Panga is set in the dusty heartland, Street Dancer moves through ritzy fancy locales including London. Street Dancer is clearly the more glamorous of the two films.
3. Natural Versus Cultivated: Varun Dhawan who plays a dancer in Street Dancer is a natural-born dancer. He doesn’t have to make an effort to look convincing as a dancer. On the other hand, Kangana who plays a kabaddi player is not a natural-born kabaddi player. She has to make an effort to look like one. The effort shows.
4. Desh Bhakti Element: Since these are Republic Day releases, there is a strong patriotic streak running through both the films. Varun Dhawan wants to dance for his country and the country he’s warring against is Pakistan until….hang on… ‘India’ Varun falls in love with ‘Pakistan’ Shradha Kapoor. Would Veer-Zara on the dancefloor work at the Indian box-office? Panga, on the other hand, has India’s national game kabaddi as its backbone. How much more patriotic can it get?
5. Hero, Aur Kya? …While Street Dancer has Prabhudheva as a side attraction to the central Varun-Shradha dance face-off, Panga has a very strong supporting cast in Jassi Gill, playing Kabbadi-playing female hero’s unbelievably supportive husband who, like Anand Tiwari in Chhappak, or like Nitesh Tiwari in director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s life, makes breakfast for his son while wife romances the akhada. Neena Gupta and Richa Chadha also play strong supporting roles in Panga. The ensemble cast in Panga is distinctly more interesting.
So which one will it be this Republic Day? Varun-Shradha’s Indo-Pak dance moves or Kangana battling sexism, ageism, and other gender-related prejudices on the kabaddi field?