From fighting ring to silver screen, Thulasi Ekanandam has been living a dream. VIPASHA SINHA on the exciting journey of this young boxer
Trimmed hair, petite frame and a bouncy walk: Thulasi Ekanandam can easily pass off as a school girl. But as she walks into the boxing ring, all deceptions break. In a fight mode, she stands taller and broader than any of her opponents. This 27-year-old boxer won a bronze medal in the national boxing championship in 2009 and has competed with the likes of Mary Kom.
A star in her own right, she was recently the cynosure of all eyes at the premiere of her movie –
Light Fly, Fly High – in Norway. Based on her life story, this movie won the Oxfam Global Justice Award at the International Documentary Film Festival held in Amsterdam recently.
The directors of the movie, Beathe Hofseth and Susann Østigård, had spotted her at a tournament in 2010. Thulasi was touted to be the next big thing in Indian boxing. “They had come down to make a documentary on Indian boxers. They saw me fight and later came over to my house to know more about me. After I told them my story, they decided to do a brief interview,” says Thulasi, whose life changed in the days to come, not because of the interview but the controversy that brought her boxing career to a halt.
In 2011, she filed a sexual harassment complaint against an official of the Tamil Nadu State Amateur Boxing Association. This scandal had repercussions for her career too. She has not participated in the tournament since then. The fighter that she is, she has not lost the hope of returning back to the ring.
The movie takes you through her journey and her struggle through poverty, out of which comes a story of survival. “I am a dalit and my father is handicapped, a daily wage worker. My sister used to box and she inspired me to take this up as a career. I started training young and I participated in my first tournament at the age of 12, against a 24-year-old opponent and I won, ” says Thulasi. Many important victories followed this.
While her professional career was going good, her personal life was in a turmoil. “I walked out of my house because I refused to get my religion changed along with other family members. My parents were unhappy about my decision and I had to leave. There were times when I would get back home late and there would be lechers making a pass at me. I would beat them up. No one should ever question the strength of a woman, boxer or otherwise,” says Thulasi, who did many petty jobs like pizza delivery or a petrol bunk work to support herself. She would quit a job if she felt it was hampering her training.
Thulasi hopes that this movie inspires people who have lost hope. Even for her, this movie has given the much-needed boost. “I couldn’t believe the first time I saw myself on the screen. It was a humbling experience to go abroad and get appreciation from an international audience,” she says.
Thulasi is now a trainer at Combat Kinetics and dreams to open a boxing academy one day.
To reach her, write to email@example.com