With echoes of Bollywood blockbuster Dangal, the life and sporting success of Battambang’s Ny Samnang is being made into a film, Success of Ny Samnang, by Indian producer Manish Sharma.
Not the typical song and dance movie, Dangal tells the true story of two sisters who pursue their father’s passion to become world class wrestlers, with one winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal and breaking further barriers by becoming the first Indian female wrestler to qualify for the Olympics.
The film is awaiting fine-tuning before it is released to Cambodian audiences, but its pre-screening to a select group has revealed how closely Ny Samnang’s back story and rise to fame as the 2013 Myanmar SEA Games freestyle gold and Asian Beach Games bronze medallist resembles that of India’s Phogat sisters, Geeta and Babita, who were driven to take up wrestling by their father Mahavir Singh Phogat.
After abandoning his dream of being an international wrestler Mahavir Singh hoped for a son to live out that goal, but he ended up with four daughters. Much against their initial will and social norms, Mahavir took it upon himself to train Geeta and Babita and drove them to be competitive wrestlers.
Nitesh Tiwari’s Dangal captures in great detail how Geeta shaped her own destiny and went on to become a famed wrestler.
In China the film, which was a smash hit raking in nearly $70 million, was released as Shuai Jiao Baba, which roughly translates as “Let’s wrestle, Dad”.
SEA Games gold
Also inspired by real life, Sharma turned to Ny Samnang to create a Cambodian version that aims to show her father Ny Nik’s desire to see his then teenage daughter take up the centuries old Cambodian sport he himself had pursued.
Ny Nik came to Phnom Penh at the turn of the century to request 1996 Atlanta Olympian Vath Chamroeun, who at the time was a coach, to train his daughter, and the current president of the Wrestling Federation of Cambodia was more than willing to help.
Having fought through his own formative years to hone his wrestling skills to reach the level necessary to represent his country at the Olympics, the coaching instincts of Chamroeun, currently serving his second term as the secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, could clearly see the talent in Ny Samnang.
The wrestler’s hard work and the coach’s persistence paid off when the then 18-year-old Ny Samnang took the 63kg freestyle gold at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar and went on to become the first female wrestler from the Kingdom to win a bronze medal at the 4th Asian Beach Games in Phuket the following year.
In the intervening years, Ny Samnang, who is married to Nguon Makara, a member of the national wrestling team, has pursued coaching after giving up competitive wrestling.
“It is a highly inspirational story for the younger generation and also a powerful example of women’s empowerment through the medium of sports,” said Chamroeun, whose association with wrestling right from his younger days, first as a competitor and then as a coach, and his administrative ties with the sport have given him a prominent role in the film.
“In many ways, Ny Samnang’s wrestling career and success are similar to that of the famous Indian sisters’.
“The underlying theme is how these strong-willed young women were able to excel in a physically demanding sport like wrestling, and that should set an example for others,” added Chamroeun, who hopes the film will succeed in spreading Ny Samnang’s inspiring message among the younger generation.