MUMBAI: Geeta Phogat is getting used to the glamour business. Dressed in a trendy black and white maxi dress, sporting a stark red lipstick and slick, smoothed down long hair, she is far away from the daughter-of-the-soil persona that first brought her attention. But given the instant success of the film Dangal — based on her and her family — the 28-year-old is suddenly being recognised as a face to launch a thousand ships.
“I feel a little bad that I am getting the attention now,” she said at a product launch in Mumbai on Wednesday. Phogat had become the first Indian female wrestler to win a medal when she claimed gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, which also served as the climax of the hugely successful film.
“We live in a country where what happened more than six years ago is now reaching the people. But I am happy, that even though a bit late, I have received so much love from the people.
“Every athlete emerges who from a rural background, and becomes famous, has faced some difficulty in their lives. Our story was different because we were girls, from a small village in Haryana and playing a sport like wrestling. Our father had to endure and suffer a lot. We were lucky that even though only through the medium of a film, we have been appreciated. Not many people knew our father (Mahavir Phogat), who has made us what we are, before the film but now he’s got that recognition.”
The Phogats have become the first family of wrestling in India. With Mahavir, an amateur wrestler himself, sculpting his daughters, and nieces careers, with an iron fist, they have broken through gender barriers and raised the profile of the sport.
Like Rio bronze medalist Sakshi Malik, Geeta hasn’t participated in international competitions for a year. Buoyed by the success of the film, she hopes to revive her career. “I am motivated now,” said Geeta, who married fellow wrestler Pawan Saroha late last year.
“First I was thinking that I would play till 2016, hopefully, qualify and even better if I win a medal. But after the film, and because I missed out on the Olympics due to a shoulder surgery, there is still that itch. I am not that old. I am still fit and have the capability to work very hard.”
The attention and new-found celebrity is nice. But Geeta, who is now caught in the whirlwind of fanfare and everyone from corporates to politicians staking a claim on her time, wants to return to her life of discipline and tracksuits. “I just want to go back into training.”