19 July 2019 04:06 PM

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AHMAD BELAL & KARAN ANAND | 3 MAY, 2019

The Shooting Grannies of Johri, and Anurag Kashyap’s Missed Tribute

As shooting for the film gets underway, discontent grows in the village


JOHRI: Baghpat in western Uttar Pradesh, is set among lush sugarcane fields and brick farms that are spread across the entire region. Over the past few years, the district has sprung into the limelight for the shooting academies that have been mushrooming all over, and now number more than 40.

It was in 1998 that Dr Rajpal Singh started the region’s first shooting academy, in the small village of Johri. Many observers claim that this academy in Johri, which has given India 41 international medals, kickstarted the biggest shooting revolution in India.

Ever since the academy became popular, the village has attracted a lot of media attention. In 2018 Anurag Kashyap announced a Bollywood movie Saand Ki Aankh, starring Tapsee Pannu and Bhumi Padnekar, a biopic based on two shooters from the village who are both older than 65, and are also known as Shooter Dadis (grandmothers).

As the shooting is taking place in the village, there is growing discontent among the villagers about the film.

“Jis guru ne bandook uthana sikhaya, aaj chela wahi guru ko bhul gya,” says Dharm Pal Tomar, a resident of the village. (The disciple has forgotten the guru who taught him to pick up the gun.)

Villagers claim that there is no mention of Rajpal Singh in the movie, the man who got the dadis involved in shooting in the first place.

“Chandro Tomar used to come here with her granddaughter to support her, I was the one who encouraged them to pick the guns, taught them how to use them and took them to various competitions. It’s unfair that there is no mention of our academy in the film,” says Singh himself.

Back in 2002, Dadi Chandro Tomar would accompany her granddaughter to the shooting range and one day out of curiosity, she took a shot and hit the bull’s eye. Watching her sister-in-law practise, Dadi Prakasho Tomar was also roped in and from there the never-ending journey began.

Their talent was readily recognised by Singh and he encouraged both the dadis to take up shooting as a profession. Besides training them, he also managed to enrol them in various competitions. The first medal of note for Dadi Chandro came in the veterans’ category.

Sipping tea at a nearby stall, Delhi University student Brijesh Singh shares just how disappointed he is with Anurag Kashyap, who was his favourite director.

“I have seen all his movies and the Gangs of Wasseypur series is my alltime favorite. The amount of research he put into the movie was unbelievable. Now I am really disappointed in him, because he didn’t do his research. If he had, the story wouldn’t be based on a lie,” he tells us.

With patriarchy deeply ingrained in the village, parents were initially very hesitant about their girls picking up guns. But seeing both the dadis practise shooting, along with the realisation that it could land you a respectable job, they gradually started sending their children to the academy.

Singh also claims that the 700 medals mentioned on the film poster are a hoax. “I was the one who accompanied them everywhere, I know it for a fact that they did not win 700 medals. Chandro Tomar has not even played Nationals, while Prakasho went to the Nationals once. There are hardly any players in the veteran category, if you’re running alone, obviously you will win.”

When we asked the makers of the film about Singh’s claims, Nidhi Parmar one of the producers said, “Kindly get the facts checked by our PR team. The dadis have achieved so much for the society and they don't deserve to be subjected to such allegations and I wonder about the coach’s agenda.”

However, the PR team couldn't provide any material supporting their claim of 700 medals. “The filmmakers are busy right now as they have a packed schedule, they don’t have anything to comment as of now,” said Aamir, who is handling PR for the film.

With more than 37,000 followers on Facebook, Dadi Chandro Tomar has appeared on many national and international channels over the past couple of years and has became a household name. She has also become an inspiration for all the women in the country who want to break the shackles of patriarchy and achieve success in a field dominated by men.

With Prakash Jha part of the growing the list of names attached to the movie, discontent among Johri’s residents continues to grow. While people were very excited at first, some are now saying that Dr Singh’s character should feature prominently in the film.

“It’s all Dr Sahab’s doing that an employment opportunity has opened up in the village. Boys from here are going to far-off countries and winning medals, bringing shine to the nation and the village,” says Neeraj Jatav.

With the film slated to release this Diwali, people here are keenly waiting to see how their village is portrayed in it.

The story was done as part of a documentary project "Rebels of Baghpat". The documentary will be released in May 2019.

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