Monday, July 22, 2024

Lights, camera, adventure

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To date, women are still expected to give up on their passion. Today, we have with us Kopal Goyal, an adventure film maker and passionate rock climber, who takes us through her journey from battling against the odds to highlighting some inspiring stories through her initiative, Inspire Crew and What Culture.

Tejal Sinha

Adventure filmmaker Kopal Goyal carved out a niche for herself by empowering women, who were super passionate about adventurous sport. Kopal is a trained rock climber, who started out with an idea to capture the lives of people in extreme and outdoor sports in India. Commencing her journey with Project Wild Woman, the young craftswoman broke the shackles of traditional conventions by showcasing women athletes who participated in adventure sports, defying social conventions. Her maiden project got her several nominations, including at the prestigious BANFF 2020 and Pokhara International Film Festival.

In this exclusive interview with The Pioneer, the winner of the best documentary at the 2019 Kenya International Sports Film Festival shares her scintillating body of work.

While Kopal was preparing for her competitive exams, she stumbled upon the topic of adventure. On digging deeper into the topic, she learned about rock climbing. Unaware of the adventure sports being practised in India, Kopal learned about them while scrolling through social media.

“I contacted people who were into rock climbing and went to the locations and participated in rock climbing,” she said, adding, “Neither do many people know about the rock climbers here in India, nor are they aware of their struggles, lack of recognition, and challenges. That is when I thought, “I have a camera, so why don’t I shoot and make small videos about them, so more and more people will know about them?” As a storyteller, I didn’t want to make content with no soul, I wanted people to connect with the film, and portray it in the same way that a rock climber goes through, the journey to complete a particular route. Their mental and physical strength combined to help them overcome obstacles. That was when I realised I had to explore more rock climbing. When I’m not filming, I like to go rock climbing. I want to merge my happiness and my passion and bring it into a story and present.”

On one side, while she found her true calling in rock climbing, she had her own share of struggles in order to follow her not-so-easy path to the sport. Kopal began living alone in the city at a pretty young age and followed her passion. However, her parents were pressuring her to return home and get married and found her interest in rock climbing “unladylike”.

The continuous pressure had in fact resulted in mental exhaustion. At one point, all the negativity led Kopal to give up and figure out her next steps, but no! She didn’t, and she fought back harder. Let’s hear from Kopal in much more detail on how she overcame the tough part, “My parents never understood this. For them, it was always that our kids would become doctors, and engineers. When they found out I wanted to go rock climbing, they asked, “How are you going to make a career out of this?” “How are you going to make money?” It is in itself a struggling sport, and the market has also not been established properly. Being a girl, I had to face the typical challenges. There were times when they told me things out of frustration, that they shouldn’t have told me. That used to affect me a lot mentally. People used to laugh and mock me. There were times when I went rock climbing just to prove to people that I, too, could do it. It’s been a battle for me since 2015, and it will be for the next couple of years.”

Highlighting all of the struggles, Kopal portrayed this in her film. In fact, she had used the original phone recordings of her father’s conversations.

Telling a story has always been compelling to the masses, but telling a story that can become a tool for social change is revolutionary. One such example is Project Wild Women, which has pushed the boundaries and stigmas associated with women participating in extreme and gravity sports in India.

It was through Inspire Crew, a noble initiative, started by her to highlight and motivate many such women to come out and follow their passions. This is when her award-winning Project Wild Women was the whole and sole purpose of all efforts—a documentary featuring 14 women athletes across 11 extreme sports in India. The main focus was to let people know that there are many women out there who have been practising these outdoor adventure activities by establishing the identity of not only themselves but also sports. She had first thought of focusing on just women, but over time, her thoughts evolved and she wanted to concentrate on the whole community that is working for the sport. Apart from Project Wild Women, her other films include The Basalt Queens, Kokankada: A Dream Climb, in collaboration with Shivam Aher, and The Rakchham Affair.

“”When Inspire Crew was founded, I was very sure that, with the kind of problems I have faced in my life, I would always try my best and not let others face the same problems and struggles. Inspire Crew was born to support people practising extreme and alternative sports in India. In the beginning, Inspire Crew was created only to promote women in extreme situations, but later the idea was restored to consciousness. It now supports people in the outdoors regardless of age, gender, and social status. The reason was sensitive. Men play a very important role in bringing equality, and if we separate them, we are unconsciously stopping ourselves from creating a space where true feminism resides. So, I realised that instead of viewing sports from the perspective of males and females, we should start looking at them as athletes.”

Along with Inspire Crew, they have also started What Culture, which works on various programmes to promote and encourage the participation of people of all ages in sports as part of the outreach programme with fun and creative sessions, self-sustainable life skills, team-building programmes with friendly practices; free from all sorts of discrimination, exchange programs, content creation, and promotion.

On a concluding note, Kopal speaks up on the current scenario of sports and adventure sports, and says, “Over time, the scenario of sports has changed. Women have been coming forward and participating in different sports, but still, the ratio is very low. The thing that has changed is that now parents are more open about making their kids get into sports, and get different experiences. However, when it comes to adventure sports, there is still a significant gap. There is a very less professional representation for women. In a few sports, you have only those women who have been participating in that particular sport for the past years. You won’t find fresh faces.”

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Why viewers still make use of to read news papers
    when in this technological world everything is existing on net?

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