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Boxing is still perceived as a Male Sport: Ameesha Joshi

“Till the recent past, Indian society was yet to fully accept the short hair and track pants associated with women’s boxing. It is generally perceived that women in Boxing aren’t supported much by the people. Even in Canada, there is the general perception that boxing is a Male sport,’ announced Ameesha Joshi and Anna Sarkissian at the MIFF after a special screening of their film – With This Ring, featuring Indian women boxers Sarita Devi, MC Mary Kom and Chhoto Loura.

The film, shot across four countries – India, China, Barbados and UK, during various Boxing Championships is an attempt to tell the stories of these Women Boxers and their life.

It was during 2006 at the 4th AIBA World Women’s Boxing Championships, the Indian Women made a clean sweep, winning medals in eight out of 13 categories. They became the number one team in the world. Yet the champions remained unknown even across India.

Anna Sarkissian reveals further, “Mary Kom was an unknown person until her win. It is a pity that despite winning 5 championships on the trot, incidentally never achieved by any male or female boxer, nobody cared about her and Mary Kom was virtually an unknown person. It is encouraging to note that many of them are offered jobs in Government Enterprises.”

An astonishing fact is that the Indian boxers have considerable support from the Sports Authority of India with decent perks, while the Canadian boxers are juggling 9-5 jobs and raising money to pay their way to the world championships.

This doesn’t mean that Mary Kom had it easy. These rural women fortunately made the best of this rare and unique opportunity, which they accepted it with a Do-or-Die attitude.

So did the film producers Ameesha and Annna who lived with the women boxers to document their lives and intense regimen who spend most of the year at national training camps in various parts of India. They followed boxers Sarita Devi and MC Mary Kom to Manipur and Chhoto Loura Haryana.

The idea germinated in Ameesha’s mind in 2005 when she saw images of girls boxing on the beach in Chennai. Much to her surprise, she discovered that India not only had extensive boxing infrastructure for women, but also many international medals.

While recounting their decade long journey, says Ameesha “We faced many ups and downs coupled with our limited resources. There were limitations during research of these boxers prior to the Olympic Games. I could meet Mary Kom in Liverpool only once before the Olympics started and thereafter there were many restrictions on meeting and interacting with the athletes.”

“With This Ring is a different species altogether. Our intention is to share the life and times of these lesser known achievers and the film isn’t designed with a commercial intent. We never intended of a financial gain. It is not a sports film. This is an artistic film about women boxers and their lifestyle in the backdrop,” declares Anna Sarkissian.

Ironically, it is only when Indian athletes become national champions, they are rewarded with stable government jobs as railway clerks or police officers drawing decent salaries and perks to comfortably live their life and continue with their training. This is what this documentary about the women who make up the Indian national boxing team is about.

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