The Deepika Kumari documentary has finally been released on Netflix, so you can watch in the comfort of your own home!
A major documentary about Indian recurve archer Deepika Kumari titled ‘Ladies First’ was released to Netflix worldwide on 8 March 2018. Made by Uraaz Bahl and Shaana Levy-Bahl, who started filming just a few weeks before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, it gives the most detailed insight yet into Deepika’s career.
Just 40 minutes long, it uses the Rio Games as a frame to take the audience through Deepika’s career so far, after being born into poverty in rural Jharkand in central India. Kumari grew up in a mud house with no running water, and often had to steal vegetables from the local fields for food.
It turns out that her first visit in 2006 to the Seraikella archery academy that developed her talent as a junior was motivated more by wanting to lessen the burden on her parents rather than an interest in archery. “I thought if I left home, there would be more money… At first, I didn’t even know it was a sport,” she says.
It also graphically shows the remarkable discrepancies within Indian Olympic sport, with the women’s archery team making the 32-hour journey to Rio in economy, while some officials travelled business class.
Despite a distinct lack of resources compared to many other nations, there is a constant demand for medals, not helped by the astonishing pressure heaped upon sportspeople by the Indian media.
The film includes a notorious incident in 2013 with Kumari and her teammates, fresh from an Archery World Cup victory, being harassed to the point of tears by TV crews at Delhi airport.
But the film’s real focus is the incredible difficulties that young women face especially in developing countries.
It closes on Kumari’s increasing role model status, especially among young Indian athletes. Her archery career may still have surprises yet to come, but as the film shows, she has become an icon of what is possible.
“In the big cities in India, women are more emancipated, they have more rights,” Kumari said to The Independent on the film’s release. “But if you come to a small town in a small state where I’m from, the women are very oppressed. It changes between family to family, as some families are very conservative and will oppress their daughters even more. They believe that women are incapable of doing things, that women shouldn’t be allowed out of the house. I want that to change.”
She says: “I hope girls in India who face many obstacles look at me for inspiration to rise above their problems, and fight to follow their dreams, to pursue their ambitions.”
You can watch Ladies First from anywhere in the world with a Netflix subscription.