Will the Dan­gal fam­ily teach wrestling to South Kore­ans? Yes, if the First Lady wants

HT City - - FRONT PAGE - Henna Rakheja henna.rakheja@htlive.com

The story of a fam­ily from a con­ser­va­tive In­dian state that broke ev­ery stereo­type — and won on the world stage — in­spired Aamir Khan’s 2016 block­buster Dan­gal. It’s a film that has res­onated not just across In­dia, but across Asia, and one of its ad­mir­ers is the First Lady of South Korea, Kim Jung-sook, who has met the fam­ily, the Phogats, on her state visit to In­dia (July 8-11), with the South Korean premier Moon Jae-in. What’s more, the First Lady has ex­pressed an in­ter­est in invit­ing the fam­ily of wrestlers to her own coun­try to teach the wrestling moves to South Kore­ans and spread the mes­sage of gen­der equal­ity.

On July 10, in an in­ti­mate set-up for high tea in Delhi, the ti­tle track of Dan­gal played as Kim Jung-sook en­tered the room and in­stantly recog­nised Geeta Phogat, the first In­dian woman wrestler to win a Com­mon­wealth Games gold medal. “Geeta, you’re Geeta...” the First Lady said in an elated tone, and the Olympian stepped for­ward to greet her.

A self-con­fessed fan of the film Dan­gal, Kim Jung-sook met the Phogat fam­ily — fa­ther Ma­havir Singh Phogat, wife Daya Kaur, daugh­ters Geeta and Babita Phogat — over high tea, and con­grat­u­lated them on over­com­ing so many hur­dles and at­tain­ing the stature of in­ter­na­tional ath­letes. The fam­ily gifted the First Lady a sky blue sari and a mace, the weapon of Lord Hanu­man, the de­ity of In­dian wrestlers.

Through an in­ter­preter, Kim Jung-sook spoke of her ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Daya Kaur — the film shows her as a source of quiet strength (as played by Sak­shi Tan­war) — and asked, “Did the girls feel em­bar­rassed about train­ing and run­ning around the fields like boys in a vil­lage?” Ma­havir replied, “There were a lot of ob­sta­cles that the girls had to over­come in their youth, to lead the dis­ci­plined life that has made them the in­ter­na­tional sports per­son­al­i­ties they are to­day.”

Kim Jung-sook told Ma­havir that she be­came “emo­tional” while watch­ing Dan­gal and was awestruck by the kind of dis­ci­pline he in­stilled in his daugh­ters so that they could be­come gold medal-win­ning wrestlers — af­ter Geeta, sis­ter Babita also won gold at the Com­mon­wealth Games.

Ma­havir tells us, “The First Lady men­tioned that she was so in­spired by the film and our lives that she’d go back to South Korea and try and in­vite our en­tire fam­ily there, so that we can teach wrestling to South Kore­ans, and also create aware­ness that there shouldn’t be dis­crim­i­na­tion be­tween boys and girls.”

An over­whelmed Babita says, “Though she wasn’t able to un­der­stand our lan­guage di­rectly, she was so re­spon­sive to what­ever we tried to ex­plain. Af­ter all, the im­pact of a real story is al­ways real.” About the gifts, she adds, “Gada ek pe­hel­wan ki shakti ka pra­teek hai, that’s why our papa de­cided to gift one to her.”


The Phogat fam­ily with Kim Jung­sook (cen­tre, hold­ing a mace), the First Lady of South Korea

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