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National award to Goonga Pahelwan, a film on most accomplished deaf athlete made by Gujarat NGO

By Our Representative
In a major victory for Gujarat's activist film makers, "Goonga Pehelwan", a documentary on the life and struggle of Virender Singh, one of India's most accomplished deaf athletes, has been adjudged as the best debut film award in the non-feature category for the 62nd National Film Awards for the Year 2014. Directed by Mit Jani, Vivek Chaudhary, and Prateek Gupta, the documentary, released in 2013, is an attempt to bring to light the "unequal treatment" from the government and the society.
Produced by NGO Drishti media, Ahmedabad, the award for "Goonga Pehelwan" was announced alongside that for some key feature films like "Queen", "Haider" "Mary Kom" and "Court". Drishti's Debarun Dutta believes this "is a huge leap forward for not just us but also Virender and everyone else attached to this mission we're working on. Goonga Pehelwan is up there with the likes of Haider, Mary Kom and Queen."
Virender won Gold at Melbourne Deaflimpics in 2005, Silver World Deaf Wrestling Championship in Armenia in 2008, Bronze at Deaflympics in Taiwan in 2009, Bronze at World Deaf Wrestling Championship in Bulgaria in 2012, and Gold at Deaflympics in Bulgaria in 2013.
Dutta says, "When we started working on 'Goonga Pahelwan', one of the major reasons that spurred us on was the divide that existed between able-bodied athletes and those who were differently-abled, like Virender. One such debilitating factor was the exclusion of events for the differently-abled from being eligible for cash awards -- an unjust clause that existed as concrete evidence of discrimination."
Dutta claims, thanks to the efforts by Drishti and its documentary, the Government of India in January 2015 agreed to bring about a change in its sports policy by bringing events in which physically challenged sportspersons participated at par with the rest.
"It means that winners at the Deaflympics, the Paralympics and all other sporting events for the differently-abled will also receive cash rewards. This move validates a massive chunk of the efforts we poured into making Goonga Pehelwan", he said.
According to him, "When the film began, one of the two major objectives of the film was to help Virender compete at the national games, which is the first step towards qualification for international tours and subsequently the Olympics."
Based on interviews with Virender all those who surrounded him, including his family members, the film ultimately helped see "Virender take the mat with non-hearing impaired athletes with the provision of referees that will provide him visual and tactile cues, a day that all of us have patiently waited for, fought for and contributed for."
An important aim the documentary has been to garner support and make possible Virender Singh’s desire to represent India at the Rio Olympics 2016.

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