Docu on Chennai Boxer Wins Oxfam Justice Award
Sexual harrassment and boxing gloves are bound to tell a compelling story. So it’s not surprising that people sat up and took notice when a documentary was screened on female boxing champion E Thulasi at the International Documentary Film Festival 2014 in Amsterdam.
The ex-champ, whose career came to an abrupt halt after filing a sexual harassment complaint against the Secretary of the TN State Amateur Boxing Association A K Karunakaran, would have probably forgotten all about it if the 80-minute film, Light Fly, Fly High hadn’t won the prestigious Oxfam Global Justice Award in November last year.
And just like that, from rising star to forgotten sportswoman, Thulasi was back in the spotlight again. Except this time her fans were in Norway, courtesy filmmakers Beathe Hofseth and Susann Østigård. And Thulasi, who returned from Norway just a couple of days ago, is beyond overwhelmed.
“It was the first time I saw myself on film,” she says in broken English. “And I was stunned by the crowd that came for the movie’s release,” her voice is thick with emotion now.
The documentary that began as a short film project to be shot over a couple of months, transitioned into a full-length documentary when the controversy sparked while it was being shot in 2011. And Thulasi, who was 24 at the time, was tagged the girl who ‘punched’ poverty in the face and the next big thing in Tamil Nadu’s boxing arena.
Unfortunately, all her dreams came to abrupt halt when the scandal broke. And ostracised from her family as well for not converting to Christianity with them, she was suddenly all alone. “When I was contacted about the shoot, I wasn’t shy in front of the camera, but distrustful of the girls who approached me,” she recalls. However, after following her around for over a year, the three (filmmakers and Thulasi) eventually became good friends.
After such a turbulent ride, you would think that her boxing days are far behind her now. But Thulasi clearly doesn’t see it that way. “I’m sharing what I have learnt now,” she tells us simply.
About a month ago, the 27-year-old was hired by Combat Kinetics to train people in the sport. And considering her schedule isn’t as strenous as it used to be, she looked for other ways to spend more time in the ring. “Now I’m learning kickboxing and malyutham (submission wrestling),” Thulasi says with a smile.
But is boxing competitively still on her mind? Her face lights up in response, but she’s a little hesitant to answer this one. So her boss Ajit Sigamani jumps in instead, “We’re looking at signing Thulasi up for international tournaments in the pipeline.” He quickly adds, “And not just for boxing, but also under the kickboxing and mixed martial arts categories once she gets more into the game.”
In case you were wondering what the title of the documentary meant, Light Fly refers to the light weight boxing category for women. At last, Thulasi can spread her wings.