Deepika Kumari’s documentary falls short (Review)

By Subhash K. Jha 

Film: “Ladies First”, Director: Uraaz Bahl; Rating: **1/2

There is so much that one expects from the sharp-shooting archer Deepika Kumari’s story as told in the terse and brief documentary “Ladies First”.

Some of Bollywood’s names have been recommending the film by Uraaz Bahl.

While the idea of celebrating the rise from the ashes of abject poverty and crippling prejudices of one of India’s most accomplished female sportspersons is indeed laudable, the documentary left me with more questions than answers.

At less than 40 minutes of playing time, Deepika’s rise from an impoverished background in Jharkhand to the No. 1 archer in India, barely gets a decent spread-out in the narrative.

Everything is done in a rush, and a hush. We never get to know Deepika’s inner feelings as she struggled against gender prejudices and her destiny of poverty. It’s like getting vivid glimpses of landscape from a moving train.

Beating all the odds is a great hook-line for a motivational life story. But where is the breathing space for the saga to grow? The pace is way too hurried to allow us to enter Deepika’s psyche, except for one moving meltdown towards the end where she talks about how unfair the nation is to sportspersons who fail to make the big win at the Olympics.

It is here that I realised that “Ladies First” is actually about the grace required by the sportsperson as well as the public to accept defeat as part of the cycle of victory.

Deepika Kumari doesn’t say so. But we come across as a nation of spoilsports who worship only success and the successful.

“Ladies First” tells us why it is important to respect those who represent us at international sporting events, irrespective of whether they actually bring in the medal.

Lamentably, the message is put forward in a profile that’s way too sketchy and skimpy. More fleshing-out of Deepika’s background and more conversations delving into her fight against poverty and prejudice would have made “Ladies First” a documentary worthy of its distinguished subject.

“Ladies First” doesn’t shoot its arrow half as directly as Deepika Kumari.

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