‘With This Ring’ – featuring Mary Kom, Sarita Devi and Chhoto Loura Marathon film for co-directors Ameesha and Anna
Ameesha Joshi, born in Canada to immigrant Indian parents, and Anna Sarkissian, of Egyptian/Armenian-Irish parentage, could not have imagined that their documentary on Mary Kom, Sarita Devi and Chhoto Loura, famed women boxers of India, would take 10 years to complete. But, like resolute boxers, they never let circumstances knock them out, and, to their delight their ambitious 87-minute film With This Ring was shown at MIFF, in the Special Screening category. On Sunday, they met the press at the MIFF Media Centre.
Ameesha, whose roots are in Ahmedabad, told that it was a picture of Mary Kom, India’s most famous female boxer, that had triggered the idea. “I saw it in an exhibition. Being Indian by heredity, I began to wonder how difficult it must have been for a woman in India to achieve international fame in the field of boxing. That was in 2005. I shared this thought with my film school colleague, Anna, and we decided to go to India and make a film about it.” She added that she had already made a film about a woman boxer in Canada, so she had some knowledge about the subject.
“I did not know a thing about boxing and had no interest in it whatsoever,” confessed Anna, who is a qualified anthropologist. “But soon after hearing Ameesha’s idea, we prepared to go to India, with funds provided by Ameesha’s family. Over the years, we visited India four times and also went to Barbados, UK and China. Shooting took place during 2006-12, and we must have spent around six months in India. I have travelled extensively in this country, and have loved every bit of it especially the food.”
Asked whether she spoke any Gujarati, Ameesha smiled and admitted that she could understand but not speak the language. Anna, who has learnt Arabic, the language of her Cairo-born father, had picked up some Hindi during the shooting, but cannot remember much now. Both agreed that language was a major problem during their days in India.
Responding to another question, about funding, the duo revealed that nobody was paid, and $21,000 was raised via crowd funding. Funds were also provided by the Quebec (the two met as students at Concordia University, Montréal, Quebec) State Council for Arts and Literature Canada Council for the Arts, and the National Film Board of Canada. Their alma mater, Concordia, provided production equipment free of cost. With This Ring was a marathon film for the makers, who have made a few short films earlier. Nearly 200 hours of footage was edited down to 87 minutes!
Both are enthused and delighted by the response to their film at MIFF, and are hopeful that they would find avenues of marketing and releasing it. Summing up, Ameesha said, “Back in 2006, hardly anybody had in India heard about Mary Kom. When we mentioned the name we were often asked, “Mary Kom? Is she Chinese? This in spite of the fact Indian women boxers were the highest ranked. Then, in 2012, women’s boxing was recognised by the Olympics, and Mary went to represent India. We followed her to Liverpool, where she was training. Though we were not allowed to shot the Olympics in London, we were delighted that she bagged the bronze medal!”