Deb Medhekar's 'Bioscopewala' sheds light on Burkha boxing which is still practiced in slums of Kolkata by poor women, who wants to escape poverty and seek empowerment through boxing. If the woman makes it to the district or state level they get a chance at a government job.
Tisca Chopra, who will be seen playing a poignant role of Wahida in Bioscopewala', says it was shocking to learn that women were used in same way as cocks are used in cockfights.
Speaking about it, she says, "I actually heard about it several years ago from a friend in Kolkata who had mentioned it in passing. And when Deb Medhekar (the director of Bioscopewala) brought it up in the context of the film, we spoke about it at length. Then I researched it extensively. It was shocking to me that women were used much in the same way as cocks are used in cock fights; men bet on them and the women often used it as a way to stave off poverty. In Bioscopewala, Wahida, the character I play is an Afghan refugee who takes to boxing so as to not become a prostitute and also maybe get legalised as a citizen if she did well as a boxer."
She further says that practicing burkha boxing is such a derogartory thing towards woman, "Women who would get sucked into burka betting were often immigrants or poor. It was such a cruel thing, watching these women often hurt their own friends while boxing just for the pleasure of the betting men who got a high out of watching women bloody themselves at the sport. Most often these women had no training in boxing and no gloves or medical care."
Reasoning with why these women still get involved in it, she says, "The women who take up Thai sport are mostly poor young Muslim women who are trying to avoid being sucked into prostitution. Burkha Boxing is a way for them to earn money. It's not the best way because these women often get badly hurt and there is no medical cover. They are basically being used as animals in a sport."
"Men who bet on the burqa boxers are immigrant labour who don't have their families around. For them it is a way to bonding with other men while enjoying a sport. That the sport involves women is added incentive and the betting adds to the excitement. That it is exploitative in the extreme is what makes this one of the sad truths of the world. It’s hard to know why this sport took root in the congested lanes of Kolkatta. Maybe because the Sonagachi red light area was where many immigrant women finally found work," says Tisca.
Deb Medhekar's 'Bioscopewala' is inspired from Rabindranath Tagore's Kabuliwala. The film stars Danny Denzongpa, Geetanjali Thapa, Tisca Chopra and Adil Hussain.
Presented by Fox Star Studios in association with Star India, produced by Sunil Doshi and will release on May 25, 2018.