Saand Ki Aankh: Prakashi Tomar opens up on her biopic, breaking stereotypes and equation with Taapsee Pannu
Prakashi Tomar shares her insights on Saand Ki Aankh biopic and how well Taapsee Pannu transforms herself in sharpshooter's role
At 82, world’s oldest sharpshooter, Prakashi Tomar seems resilient, her voice steely enough to echo throughout the room, and when asked if she would like to take a break between her interviews, she politely refuses and cites that she's energized to finish everything at once.
Seema, Prakashi’s daughter, says this Diwali is special for the Tomar household owing to the release of Saand Ki Aankh. Directed by Tushar Hiranandani, the film is based on the lives of octogenarian sharpshooters, Chandro and Prakshi Tomar. It stars Bhumi Pednekar and Taapsee Pannu in lead roles.
According to Prakashi, her journey into the profession was an unexpected one. She would accompany her granddaughters, Ruby and Preeti, to the village’s shooting ranch. And one day, out of sheer boredom, she picked up the rifle and hit a perfect shot. Bewildered and impressed with her skill, coach encouraged the Tomars to start practising the sport.
“We belong to a conservative joint family, it was impossible to step out of home. Moreover, we feared of being ridiculed by the elders of our village,” says Prakashi who then secretly continued learning the sport with her sister-in-law, Chandro.
Prakashi reveals she would finish the household chores and when night fell she'd hold a jug of water in a closed room to enhance grip and strengthen her wrists. While their gunslinging adventures continue to draw praises, there are few anecdotes which allude to their bravery. After two years of her training, Prakashi beat a deputy superintendent of police during a rifle shoot face off at an event. Flabbergasted, the DIG refused to take a picture with her, stating it was a huge humiliation. “But he did agree at the behest of villagers and I still have the picture at home,” adds Prakashi.
Ahead of the film’s trailer release, Taapsee had shared that she moved to Johri to prep for her role. She lived with the Tomars for a month to study Prakashi’s style, mannerisms and body language. “It was lovely to have her at home. Taapsee would ask us to prepare her favorite delicacies, help in farming, and then sit with us during evenings to talk about nothing and everything,” says Prakashi who feel the actors have justified their quirks to quite an extent.
In a particular sequence of the trailer, when their coach witnesses the sisters sling perfect shots, he jokingly asks what they eat for breakfast. To which Taapsee replies gaali (insults), encapsulating the years of oppression women had to go through. However, when I asked Prakashi about developing the core strength to hold heavy rifles at her age, she slyly suggests it was the household chores that helped them. “When you milk five cows every day and work in the fields, you will instantly develop the power to hold and fire a gun, and honestly we have been doing it for years,” replies the 82-year-old sharpshooter.
Though the ‘Revolver Dadis’ have broken major stereotypes and paved the path for future generation of women sharpshooters, Prakashi asserts change is a slow and gradual process. Initially shamed for picking up the profession, she reveals that they would hide the trophies, stealthily participate in the competitions and often lie to their families about learning the sport. “Eventually, it was our sons who supported us to carry on with the profession. When my daughter, Seema, clinched her first international trophy she had an entourage of cars to pick her at the airport. This itself is a huge difference. Hence we can't expect a change overnight, it will take time especially in the rural areas."
Seema believes that the film would create a significant impact upon its release. According to her, while a lot is known about the shooter dadis, the film will take their tales to a wider audience and more importantly to the rural womenfolk.
“Even before the biopic came into being, many already knew about the dadis. There are interviews, reading material and even the Satyameva Jayate episode with Aamir Khan is available on the internet,” quips Seema while I stalk Instagram pages of Tomars who collectively enjoy over 18 thousand followers. “However, the film has the potential to reach every household, because it is essential to share their inspirational story. It is time for people to realise that age is indeed only a number and true success lies in hard work and determination.”
Saand Ki Aankh released on 25 October to a clash with Farhad Samji's ensemble comedy Housefull 4, and Rajkummar Rao-starrer Made in China.
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