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Saand Ki Ankh is a movie worth watching, for the sheer solidarity between women who face the same adversary – patriarchy – while also being an inspiring sports film.
The typical ‘sports-themed film’ has a predictable trajectory. A hidden, unrecognized or raw sporting talent has a fortuitous meeting with a burnt-out or excellent coach (take your pick), followed by months of intense coaching, agonizing hardship, some predictable hiccoughs (over the next hour or so of film time ) and then a big, sensational win.
Saand Ki Aankh (Bull’s Eye?!!), based on real-life events has it all backwards.
The first ten minutes of the film make it clear that the Tomar ladies have no shortage of natural talent, or the grit and determination to win. Brushing aside (literally) the handicap of an opaque ghunghat as well as the lack of sophisticated attire or attitude, they are the dark horses who astound the audience, and silence their detractors by winning medals at their very first tournament!
A typical movie would have had the credits rolling at this point. But the real struggle for Chandro and Prakashi Tomar, the sister-in-law duo from a Jat family of Uttar Pradesh begins at this point.
Theirs is a typical and oft-heard story of suppressed women living in a patriarchal family with feudal chauvinistic values. The fruit of their toil fills the coffers of the family (whilst the men loll around), and that of their fertile womb ensures that the family is multiplying exponentially. However, the respect and humane treatment that is their rightful due remains elusive as ever.
Be it riding a bicycle in secret, plotting their husbands’ nusbandi (vasectomy), plying a sewing machine for the entire family’s clothes, or dreaming of a better future for their grand-daughters, this duo proves that breaking stereotypes and rebelling against domestic tyranny can be done with a wily dignity when no other recourse presents itself.
When a chance visit to a local shooting range (with their granddaughters who are hoping for a sarkari-naukari) uncovers their natural talent, the duo train long and hard. They then embark on a spree of winning medals all over the country.
What is heart-breaking is that the greater challenge for the Tomar women, Chandro and Prakashi (as well as their two shooter-grand-daughters) is not the winning of the tournament, but the obstacles that must be overcome to reach the venue. The regressive and feudal men-folk in the family, most notably the patriarch, refuse to ‘allow’ their women to even emerge from their ghunghat, thereby making their travel to distant cities for tournaments, a near-impossibility.
This necessitates a project of detailed deceit, lies, and furtive planning.
That the duo managed to pull this off is no small credit to their hunger to prove their menfolk wrong (“guns can be handled only by men”). But also to their desire to give the next generation of women in their family the self-worth that was denied to them all their lives.
In the process, the Shooter-Dadis also saw a world beyond their own.
For example, they are astonished to see a local Maharaja, accompanying his shooter-wife to every tournament, proudly carrying her gun-case and effusively singing her praises. The possibility that a man might be not feel insecure when his woman achieves fame or success is an eye-opening one!
What stood out for me was the solidarity of the women in the family against their common tormentors. Be it backing each others’ lies, or helping with chores or standing up to their menfolk, these are women who know the value of unity.
For Indian viewers watching Saand Ki Ankh, the bullying, abuse, lopsided work ethic, and sheer inhuman treatment of women in the film may be sadly familiar, particularly because our society is rife with it.
Chandro, Prakashi and indeed, all the women in the Tomar family who are portrayed in the family will find echoes of someone, somewhere that we know, hear of or meet (perhaps in the mirror?) every single day. The sister, friend, maid-servant, colleague who is striving for a voice, a shred of kindness, a word of appreciation or a morsel of respect.
A movie worth a watch for the warm feeling that comes with watching a success story unfold and the knowledge that change can happen when ardently fought for and fervently wished for.
Image source: a still from the movie Saand ki Ankh
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