The Tibetan women’s football team possesses an extraordinary determination to fight against odds. Irshal Ishu tells its story in an upcoming film

The sound of traditional music emanating from the nearby Tibetan Youth Hostel used to transport filmmaker Irshal Ishu, while he lived in an apartment at Rohini, into a blissful world. The fledgling Tibetan musicians managed to convey their outlook towards life and hope for a better future through the sound of music.

The fact that his house was just a stone’s throw from the hostel meant that Irshal got exposed to the unique Tibetan way of life, their carefree attitude and resilience at an early age. It also familiarised him with the community’s willingness to stay happy and remain in a positive frame of mind despite adverse circumstances.

Understanding of the Tibetan way of life helped Irshal in making a film on all-Tibetan women’s football team, which deserves recognition. Titled “Kicking Boundaries”, the film is almost complete. The filmmaker says he made a conscious decision to not highlight the political aspirations of the community, and focus just on the players.

Only after much prodding did these free-spirited yet extremely guarded women open up with the 23-year-old director, who learnt filmmaking at Delhi’s renowned Jamia Millia Islamia. The fact that he had been interacting with Tibetan youngsters during his growing up years definitely helped break the ice.

Last February, on his maiden trip to Imphal, Irshal was impressed with the way the Tibetan women’s football team played against a Manipuri club. Even as the crowd was vociferously cheering for the local team, the Tibetan women, some mere school girls, demonstrated remarkable resilience.

The All-India Football Federation restricted women players registered with them from going ahead and playing football with the Tibetan team. “The players were threatened that their registration would be cancelled if they contravened their diktat.”

While the filmmaker would have ideally liked to have screened the film during the ongoing FIFA World Cup, translation of Tibetan into English has held the film back. Since all the players interviewed in the film spoke in their mother tongue, Irshal is taking help from one of his Tibetan friends to get the translation done. “Translation is taking a lot of time and delaying the release. Though I can understand Tibetan, I speak only a smattering of the language.”

Irshal plans to privately screen the film in Barcelona, Paris and Frankfurt. And he hopes that he would be successful in releasing it in international festivals as well.

“Hopefully, the film will make a huge impact globally as even though Tibet has been existing for centuries it has not been recognised in certain ways.”