Yasmin Kidwai has come up with the first-ever film on polo. Anuj Kumar has the details

In a country obsessed with the Englishman’s game, here comes a documentary on polo, which many think is a foreign game. And this included director Yasmin Kidwai as well, before she got fascinated by the sport.

Says Yasmin, “When I first saw polo at the Delhi Polo Club, I found it an amazing team game where the team mates are man and an animal. I felt as if there is a spiritual connection between the two. And when I discovered that the game originated in India, I decided to make a documentary on the subject.”

Beyond glamour

A first of its kind on the game in the country, Chukker will be showcased in Delhi this coming Wednesday. Extricating the game from the glamour, Yasmin has tried to cover both the history and the present of polo in the 68-minute film. “The game has its roots in Manipur and Ladakh, where it has been played for the last 2000 years. The glamour part is only in Delhi. In Manipur, one of the poorest states, a common man plays it with passion. Horses are an integral part of their lives so they don’t have to spend huge sums to train them.” Similarly she went to Ladakh, where also the game is quite popular. “Their horses are of mixed breed, which look like mules, otherwise it’s the same.”

Yasmin, who also found her soulmate while making the film , has interviewed the royalty of Rajasthan, which has patronised the game over the years. “I have interviewed Gayatri Devi, Bhawani Singh and Shivraj Singh. Then I have also interviewed the Maharaja of Patiala Captain Amarinder Singh who did a lot to revive the game when he was the Chief Minister of Punjab.” There is an interesting story here. “There was intense rivalry between the teams of Jodhpur and Patiala. Once the stakes became so high that the Patiala team decided not to play the game again if they lost to Jodhpur. Interestingly, the Patiala team lost, and the story goes that they burnt the horses and decided to give up the game. Amarinder calls it a rumour, but Jodhpur royalty says it’s true.”After the royals, Yasmin feels it’s the army which has kept polo alive in the country. “Still, a lot of infrastructure is required to keep the game going.”

She says that India won the Polo World Cup in 1957, but after that there are hardly any big achievements in the field. The game has yet to percolate to the common man. Most of the players come from the Army or from royalty.

With eight documentaries to her credit, this time Yasmin has found ICICI as a sponsor to showcase her film in Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur.

“The film would be available in the form of DVDs at select centres, and talks are on with television channels. The good thing is that Rajasthan and Manipur Tourism also came to support once I started shooting.”

Worth a chukker!