Netizens have not been able to “digest” the piece of news that Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor is all set to bring the story of former boxing champion and Asian Games gold medalist Dingko Singh of Manipur alive on celluloid.
A report appearing in INDIA TODAY stated that many are “unhappy” with the casting, and feel that an actor from the North East should have been roped in for Raja Krishna Menon’s film on the Manipuri boxing great.
The report further stated that several netizens have taken to social media to express their disgruntlement at Bollywood’s tendency for “cultural appropriation”. Earlier, Priyanka Chopra was criticised for portraying five-time world champion and Olympic bronze medalist Mary Kom in the sporting legend’s biopic.
To make Priyanka look more convincing as a Manipuri, Hollywood make-up artist Mark Garbarino was roped in. However, the makers opted for a special effects solution after they realised that prosthetics would not hold while filming heavy-duty boxing sequences.
An irate Facebook user wrote, “Can we change this shit? Like can we for once have a north-eastern actor play the damn north-eastern characters?! Seriously???! Cause we for sure can’t play a Punjabi! (sic)”
Another user wrote, “Priyanka Chopra as Mary Kom, Akshay Kumar as Tapan Das, Shahid Kapoor as Dingko Singh … All with urban polished mismatching looks and fake accent. Can’t Bollywood really respect genetic diversity of India and find one suitable actor/actress from native States to give justice to icons, their achievements and India’s States?”
One user went like this, “It’s a bit weird he won’t even look like us and then the director will use some technical stuff to make him look like a northeastern. No justification right! If we see the positive side of it then a beautiful story of #Dingko would be presented to an extended audience.”
Meanwhile, Shahid is extremely excited to be playing Dingko Singh. “His life story is unbelievably crazy; it is very human and extremely inspiring. Such amazing stories of heroes need to be told,” the actor said.
Ngangom Dingko Singh, known as Dingko Singh (from Manipur) was the first and only Asian gold medalist boxer from India in the Bantamweight category. In 2013, he was awarded the Padma Shri.
Dingko has been an inspiration to many boxers who came into the ring after him, and he is so passionate about the sport, that he went on to become a coach for young boxers. In 2017, he had to battle cancer and he struggled to raise funds for his treatment.
Shahid is happy to bring the story of Dingko Singh on screen. Talking about his big project, Shahid further stated, “The thing that I loved about this story is that he is one of those superstars who we don’t know much about. If a film like Dangal (2016) wasn’t made, we wouldn’t know as much about the Phogat sisters. Dingko is a cancer survivor, and he went through 13 rounds of chemotherapy. He has even gone on to say that his biggest win was surviving cancer and not the gold medal he won at the age of 19 at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok.”
“In 2017, Gautam Gambhir became aware of his situation and sent money for his treatment. Soon, people found out who he was, and 13 doctors came forward to help him. He is a sports star who survived cancer. At some point in his past, he had almost become a Naxalite. His life story is unbelievably crazy; it is very human and extremely inspiring. Such amazing stories of heroes need to be told,” Shahid added. Currently, he is awaiting the release of Batti Gul Meter Chalu.