Akhada—“Wrestling” Fame For Women

Girls are no less than boys! The “Dhaakad” attitude of not just the girls but also their father  personifies the Akhada. The authorized biography, Akhada, of Mahavir Singh Phogat, one of India’s greatest wrestling coaches, will be published mid-December . The week preceding the release of Aamir Khan starrer Dangal based on the life of wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, will also see the publication of Phogat’s authorized biography, Akhada by Saurabh Duggal. Dangal fans will be able to dive into the protagonists’ stories in deep detail through this book.

Aamir wrestles with his daughter


In 2000, after the Olympic Games closed with much fanfare in Sydney, legendary wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat watched, dejected and heartbroken, as the prize reserved by his state government for winners of Olympic medals in wrestling were left unclaimed.

Determined to never see this instance repeated, Phogat decided to do the unthinkable. Much to his neighbours’ curiosity he spent two days digging a pit in his courtyard and asked his young daughters and nieces to join him there at the break of dawn one day. Little did they know that this unusual command from their father would change their lives forever.

Aamir in a still from Dangal

Yet, each of their wins in the ring, every ambition he had for them, came at great personal cost. In the small village of Balali in Haryana, a state infamous for its practice of female foeticide and low literacy rates, Phogat had to battle not just deep social stigma and an apathetic government but also a disapproving family and personal tragedy to train the girls in his sport. Due to his efforts, his students have all gone on to win medals and acclaim at the national and international level, including the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.

Akhada tells the remarkable story of a man of tremendous fortitude, of a father who fought against all odds to give his daughters a future they could not have dreamed for themselves.

aamir at Geeta Phogat's weddingCommenting on his authorized biography, Akhada, Mahavir Singh Phogat said:

It is often a struggle to get wrestling the attention and recognition it deserves in India, particularly women’s wrestling. If my daughters’ and my story, narrated through this book and adapted  by Aamir Khan in Dangal, can help wrestlers get their due, I will be extremely happy. I hope this inspires many others – both men and women – to get into this sport and make a name for themselves, as well as motivate parents to believe in their daughters.’

Poulomi Chatterjee,( editor- Hachette India), speaking about the book said:

‘’We’ve wanted to publish Mahavir’s amazing story ever since we learned of his remarkable journey and that of his daughters and nieces. Our hunt for a biographer led us to literary agent Kanishka Gupta who introduced us to Saurabh Duggal, a sports journalist who lives and breathes the Olympics. This year’s Olympics has kindled a conversation on our exemplary female athletes and Akhada lifts the veil on the story of our best women wrestlers.”

Saurabh Duggal is a special correspondent with Hindustan Times, Chandigarh. His main area of interest is Olympic disciplines. He covered the 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics for the newspaper, and has been selected for the prestigious Inclusive Media–UNDP Fellowships 2015 to study sports as a vehicle for social uplift, economic change and women’s empowerment in rural Haryana.