'Dangal' Actresses From Jammu And Kashmir Inspire Youth To Take Up Wrestling

The wrestling camp in Jammu where girls, inspired by Dangal, train to become the next Geeta Phogat.

Jammu: At a wrestling camp in Jammu, 37-year-old Ritika Salathia, the first woman to represent the state in wrestling, has been working overtime since the release of Aamir Khan's 'Dangal'. Ms Salathia said that after the movie's release there has been a new found interest in the sport among the youth, especially girls, who want to become wrestlers. 'Dangal' chronicles the life of wrestler Mahavir Phogat - played by Aamir Khan - and his daughter Geeta Phogat's quest for the Commonwealth Gold medal in 2010.

Ms Salathia said that when she decided to take up the sport some 20 years ago, there were no takers for wrestling, no coaches and no infrastructure in the state.

"Earlier there was no place for wrestling in the state. But after watching 'Dangal', many parents have become aware and now feel that their daughters can do such things," said Ms Salathi.

The movie's protagonist Geeta Phogat whose role as a child was played Zaira Waseem and the older one by Fatima Sana Shaikh are both from Jammu and Kashmir. This has made 'Dangal' an even bigger hit among the masses in the state. The 'Dangal' girls have taken the state by storm and have become role models for the youth.

At Ms Salathia's wrestling camp in Jammu, dozens of girls have registered themselves after watching 'Dangal'. "I have been inspired by the 'Dangal' girls, they are from J&K, if they can act in such a big movie, I can also do big things. I am also learning to wrestle along with judo," said Poonam Sharma.

"After seeing the spirit of the J&K actors who played Geeta Phogat in 'Dangal', one feels girls can achieve anything," said Sweta Thakur, who too trains at the camp.

Even the Jammu and Kashmir government is getting into the act and has started organising free wrestling camps across state for the youth.