Friday Review

Celebrating hockey

Every year, in a remote village in Coorg, right in the middle of coffee plantations, the world’s largest hockey tournament takes place. Over 200 families belonging to the Kodava community gather from different parts of the country and take part in the annual Kodava Hockey festival, which is a month-long event. Each family forms a team which means that the entire tournament comprises face-offs between 200 teams. Every year, one family takes up the responsibility of hosting the tournament. The field is cleared, podiums are constructed, jerseys are ordered, exercise drills take place everyday, the hoardings are put up and then the grand sporting event is held with tremendous amount of fervour.

Sandhya Kumar, a Bengaluru-based filmmaker, documented one such tournament held in 2013 and made Hockey in my blood, a documentary film which was screened as part of Doc@Everest by Vikalp, Bengaluru yesterday.

In a cricket obsessed country, Sandhya’s film offers an insight into a community’s consistent penchant for a sport that is not cricket. In fact, a telling moment in the film is when the priest in the temple in Coorg inadvertently tells the Kodava players, “may you win tomorrow’s cricket match” and is quickly corrected that it is a hockey match and not a cricket game. And, laughter follows. Hockey in my blood follows the lead up to the Madanda Hockey Fest, 2013, hosted by the Madanda family and ends with the opening night of the Thathanda Hockey fest, 2014. Sandhya surveys the scene before the Madanda tournament, speaks to the different families that are preparing to take part and traces the beginnings of the Kodava’s passion for hockey. Throughout the film, Sandhya’s camera merely observes and records. There is a brief moment in the film when we meet 17-year-old Priya, a hockey player who became the captain of her team during one of the tournaments. She tells the camera that no one knew that she could play the game and when her family got to know how well she could play, they made her captain. The conversation with her is only in passing and one wishes the filmmaker had pursued this thread more seriously.

The film tells us that over the years, more than fifty players have made it to national team in India from the Kodava community alone. And all of them come back to be a part of the Kodava hockey tournament each year. Sandhya also presents a fascinating montage that traces India’s tryst with hockey on the global stage. The last time India won an Olympic Gold in Hockey was in 1980, the film reminds us.

Overall, Sandhya’s film is a celebratory document that focuses on the pride that the community feels for their contribution to the field of hockey. It is heart-warming to see their dedication and the amount of effort they put into the event each year. We are told that some of them have missed examinations and even quit their jobs just to take part in the tournament. Considering this was an event that was hidden in the coffee county until recently, Sandhya Kumar's unobtrusive documentation works well.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 9:41:25 PM |

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