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The Organizer ...

Indie Meme, founded in 2013, is a film promotion company for South Asian independent films in the US. Indie Meme launched the 1st Indie Meme Film Festival in 2016. - #IMFF@Austin. The company is a fiscally sponsored project of the Austin Creative Alliance. INDIE MEME ORG is a non profit registered in Texas in the process of becoming a 501(c)3.

The Film ...

Goonga Pehelwan (officially translated as- Deaf Wrestler), is a multi-award winning biopic documentary that follows India’s most successful deaf athlete on his quest to reach the Rio Olympics 2016 and become only the second deaf wrestler in the history of the Olympics to do so.

The struggle that Virender Singh faces outside the wrestling arena are tougher than those inside the ring - because inside the ring he is in total control and there aren’t too many fights that he loses!! This is a documentary on Singh's life, the man who represented his country in the Olympics, won several medals for the nation and yet none in the country seems to know him...

The film is 46 minutes, in Hindi with English subtitles followed by Q&A with the filmmaker, Prateek Gupta and the start himself, Virender Singh via Skype.

The Awards ...

1. Goonga Pehelwan has won Best Debut Film of a Director at the 62nd National Film Awards, 2015.
2. Goonga Pehelwan was awarded a Special Jury Mention at The 7th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala, 2014.
3. Goonga Pehelwan was the Opening Film at Indian Panorama 2015, 46th International Film Festival of India.

 EVENT/FILM REVIEW by Sonal Kulshrestha, Founder, desideewar

Indie Meme premiered Goonga Pehelwan to the Dallas audience. The event started with Tripti Bhatnagar, co-founder of Indie Meme, addressing the audience. She explained that even though the Hindi word Goonga literally translates to mute, the official translation for the film is Deaf Wrestler, Virender Singh being deaf as well. 


The film beautifully captures the essence of the man. As the film maker, Prateek Gupta, later explained via Skype, that they intended to portray Virender's story almost expecting it to be a sad saga of struggles that a handicap athlete faces, but after meeting him in person, seeing his upbeat personality, they knew the film they make must be anything but that. And that is exactly what the movie conveys, the positivity that carries Virender Singh through tough situations, the zeal with which he pursues his goal, his perseverance in the face of discrimination, his spark, his spirit. He makes you laugh, he warms your heart. He makes you want to make the world a better place. He is inspirational. 

Apart from Virender, the role that his father has played in bringing his son to this level of success and his continued participation in leveling the ground for him touches your heart just as much. Good people attract good people. Virender obviously has had good friends and supporters too that you see in the film.

Goonga Pehelwan, is quite simply a must-watch film for five reasons-
1. To get an insight into the wrestling scene in the villages of India, the very well depicted life of village wrestlers and other villagers, the matter-of-fact depiction of the conditions they live, the don't care attitude of the government and policies that they face.
2. To get to know Virender Singh, his story, his spunk and feel the esprit de corps.
3. To support courageous film-makers who dare to make films that tackle social issues and prevalent bureaucracy with the hope of bringing forth changes in mindset, society and government policies. 
4. To look at the world from a different perspective, a view that inspires new thinking, kinder hearts and better opportunities for all.
5. To participate and carry on a movement- one that strives to provide equal rewards and incentives, better infrastructure of facilities, support, inclusion and acceptance to the differently- abled .


Post the film-viewing, the Q&A opportunity with the film-maker, Prateek Gupta and the star himself, Virender Singh provided some precious moments into what I am calling a movement (for it is opening the eyes of people in a country where even able-bodied athletes suffer at the hands of bureaucracy) . As Prateek elaborated, since the release of the movie, even though the government has not yet paid Virender his promised 5 crore Rupees for winning the Gold medal in Paralympics, large donations have been made to Virender Singh who teaches wrestling to kids and harbors the dream to level the field in terms of opportunities, training, incentives and rewards for the differently- abled. The team has been able to bring about some policy changes as well. Virender Singh has also been nominated for the Arjuna Award for outstanding achievement in National Sports, 2016.Talking on what brought about the making of this film, Prateek recounted how they happened to come across an article on the wrestler about four years back, but in trying to research him further found nothing on him at all. Even google search returned no results (that led to the starting scene of the movie). When Vivek Chaudhary, one of the three directors, met Virender in Delhi, the deal was sealed. They wanted his story told. 

Looking at Virender Singh via Skype clearly showed that the person you fall in love with in the film is the real deal. He instantly touched the heart of every single person in the theater as he communicated in sign language with his friend by his side to translate. I asked him what was his side of the story when he first heard that a film will be made on him? We was simply excited, he conveyed. And yes, that excitement clearly showed in the movie. Kudos to the film makers to keep him real in the film.

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