Imphal: ‘I rise’, a 52 minute documentary on the life of World boxing Champion, Laishram Sarita by Borun Thokchom, painstakingly made after five years of research and filming is a living testimony of a struggle of a village girl to reach the pinnacle in a mentally and physically challenging sport , boxing.
Using his experience, Thokchom brings forth before the masses the journey of a woman who faced obstacles, challenges in every phase of her sports and personal life. Sarita has won every Championship, a pioneer of world women boxing and the film tells the inside story of the woman who says, “Boxing runs in my blood”, “I never accept defeat”. The controversy of her refusal to accept a medal in the podium of AsianGames and the ban on her is also shown in the film.
Her reasoning itself is a part of her life and challenge to norms not favouring true sports ethics. She said sportspersons sacrifice everything to reach such a level to fight in the international arena and Judges taking decision favouring the player of the host nation.
She refused to accept the medal knowing the consequences yet telling the world that there are people ready to fight injustice. Her decision opened a new chapter in international world boxing.
Thokchom articulates through the medium of film the reason for the World Champion refusing to accept a bronze medal on the podium of the international event, her ultimate victory in the world pro boxing championship. She starts by showing the struggle, dream of a girl who practiced with grit in the vast field of Manipur, competing with naughty boys to climb tree, cross river. She wanted to prove to the world the prediction of her father that she would one day be known to the whole world.
Wondering what her father saw among the eight siblings, two brothers and six sisters, Sarita started the journey from the wilderness to international fame to become World Boxing Champion. The film shows the painstaking and mentally draining journey by showing clippings of various events and footage of her life. Her village at Thoubal Khunou, Thoubal district untouched by modern amenities, public transport was frequented by insurgents, whom she befriended out of curiosity. A verbal dress down by her elder brother made her keep a distance from the insurgents and the passing away of her father made Sarita literally fight for survival by fishing, collecting woods. Laishram Lokhon, her elder brother describes Sarita as a real village girl who can do anything and described her daily walk of eight km to practice Taekwondo.
Her dream continued and her first experience with boxing was shocking as she saw young boys sparing and punching each other in a sports complex. Everything in the boxing arena, the energy, equipment were intimidating even for a fiery young girl. She was among the first badges of girls picked up for boxing training and within a short span she managed to win silver medal in first Asian Women boxing championship in 2001 at Bangkok and her next five years was drowned in poverty unable to purchase diet and with extreme difficulty managed to participate in world boxing championship 2005 where she won the silver medal. Manipur government stepped in and provided a job in Police department.
She also shared her life with Mary Kom, their life during the struggling days and their journey. Chongtham Thoiba, her husband is shown giving full support to Sarita as she has to be away from their children most of the time. It is a huge sacrifice for Sarita as she has to be away for about ten months a year from home, practicing in the gym and the arena.
Borun goes a further step, showing the daily chores of Sarita and her social life adorned in traditional dresses, something unseen by the masses. The journey is not to achieve personal glory but to groom the new generation to bite the gold in the Olympics she said. Research, cinematography and direction of Thokchom is legendary; script, music, sound, etc amplifies the beauty of the documentary.
The film produced by Films Division Mumbai after its completion in 2019 was selected to be screened at the 9th Mumbai Short International Film Festival. It was awarded the Best Documentary At Mumbai Short International Film Festival in October 2020. It also won the Best Film on Women Outstanding Achievement Award at the Tagore International Film Festival, West Bengal. Such a film is a delight to watch and will inspire every living being to succeed in life in every circumstance. (UNI)