Sucker punch

Apr 16, 2012, 07:30 IST | Aviva Dharmaraj

Vikalp@Alliance screens two documentaries directed by women that challenge conventional notions about gender and identity

Anusha Nandakumar’s 26-minute film, Boxing Ladies, is thankfully, no Million Dollar Baby. Unlike the 2004 Oscar-winning film directed and co-produced by Clint Eastwood, the three women protagonists, who are National level boxers, don’t need to be ‘rescued’ by the benevolent patriarch in the guise of a rough, tough-talking, but well-meaning ‘gentleman’.

Anusha Nandkumar’s film, Boxing Ladies, is about three teenage sisters, who are National level boxers

The challenges faced by sisters Zainab, Bushra and Sughra, who hail from a slum in Kolkata are not restricted to inhabiting spaces traditionally cordoned off for and by men. The girls must also re-negotiate the spaces designated for them as women. This also means that the girls needn’t ‘rely’ on a man to lead them to ‘victory’. The men exist as mostly supportive, but marginal entities.

So, we watch as Sughra, the youngest, argues with her mother about the quantity of fat on the mince she is sent to purchase from a local butcher; we watch as Bushra, who works part-time manning an STD booth is happy to assure her employer that she will send the man who tries messing with her home crying and Zainab contributes to the family income by sewing, even if that means having to occasionally skip practice.

Nandakumar’s film draws us into a world in which a girl shares her concerns about having to wear shorts, another insists on having her hair cut short, in spite of the threat of being disowned by her family. The result of these insights into an otherwise ‘private’ world is that we are compelled to acknowledge the three teenage girls as women who box, as opposed to merely boxers who are women (refer to box for screening details). 

The Ghetto Girl by Ambarein Alqadar; 35 min
Ambarien Alqadar’s autobiographical documentary, The Ghetto Girl, refers to the name given to her, while growing up in the 1990s, in New Delhi. The Ghetto is a reference to her home in Jamia Nagar, one of the city’s largest Muslim neighbourhoods, often referred to as ‘India’s Little Pakistan’, and later blacklisted as a ‘Production House of Terrorists’ in order to justify the State’s killing of three Muslim boys, deemed terrorists.

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