this netflix doc about a badass female archer from rural india will blow your mind
Born on the roadside to abject poverty in rural India, by the time she was 18 years old, Deepika Kumari was a world champion archer.
In 2012, a Thomson Reuter Foundation poll named India as the most dangerous place in the world to be born a woman. Even if a woman survives birth -- most daughters are aborted in favour of sons -- she’ll grow up to face the realities of rape, abuse and an arranged marriage. On top of that, there will always be the threat of being killed for her dowry. And even if she is widowed, she’ll never be given the rights to her inheritance or even the house she lives in. To be a woman in India, is to survive against the most unconscionable odds. To thrive? Well, that’s nothing short of a miracle, which is exactly the word that comes to mind when talking about 23-year old archer, Deepika Kumari, the star of Netflix’s daring new documentary, Ladies First.
“This is the story of a girl who went in search of food, and found archery,” director Uraaz Bahl tells i-D. Born on the roadside to abject poverty in rural India, by the time she was 18 years old, Deepika was crowned world champion archer. “Here was a talented girl who lacked the right facilities and support to achieve what she wanted. India is a place where women are treated like second class citizens. Legally they have the same rights as men, but they do not have the same opportunities or resources. When you look at where Deepika is from, becoming world champion of anything is just a miracle. I knew I had to tell this story.”
Deepika was 12 years old when she first found out about archery. She’d heard about an academy in a nearby town that offered free lessons, free food, and free clothes, so she and her whole family hopped on a scooter and travelled 130 KM to Seraikella.
While other girls her age kept busy with housework, Deepika spent the next few years honing her skills and competing all over the world.
In 2010, she won a gold medal at the Commonwealth games, becoming the youngest Indian woman to win a gold medal in any event. Two years later she was named world champion archer. Later that year she suffered a huge blow, crashing out of the 2012 Olympics in London. Buckling under the immense pressure foisted upon her by an entire country and ill-equipped compared to her peers (despite being a government sport, India lacks the fundamental infrastructure required to compete on a global scale, they have no mental coach, no physical trainer, no nutritionist) what happened at the Olympics absolutely devastated her.
Picking up a few years later, Ladies First follows Deepika as she prepares for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. “I wanted to make a film that would encourage girls to break boundaries in our country,” says Uraaz.
Released on Netflix today, as part of International Women’s Day celebrations, Ladies First is a reminder to all women to never let anything get in the way of following your dreams.