The true story of female Battambang wrestler Ny Samnang, who pursued medal success with her father’s passion for the centuries-old traditional Cambodian sport, has been turned into a 145-minute film Baokchambab (Wrestling) by Indian producer Manish Sharma, who is planning an August release for audiences in the Kingdom.
With the fine-tuning of the film recently completed, the real-life struggles and successes in 2013 of the then 18-year-old Samnang is set to hit cinemas around the country.
The movie is also likely to make it to the big screen in the Southeast Asia region.
The film follows a strikingly similar narrative to Nitesh Tiwari’s Bollywood blockbuster Dangal, which is based on the incredible success of the Pogat sisters from the Indian state of Haryana, Geeta and Babita, who were driven to take up wrestling by their father Mahavir Singh Phogat.
But in Samnang’s case the story has a remarkable twist in that her father Ny Nut, who sadly passed away early last month, just days before the trailer of the movie was shown, turned to his youngest daughter after his three sons took up the sport for a while but then moved away to Thailand seeking work, while his other daughter hit a plateau in her pursuit of wrestling success.
Sharma has vividly captured the late Nut’s unwavering determination to see one of his five children pursue wrestling as he himself had been involved in up to a decent level.
After the family’s dire economic circumstances took one son after the other on a desperate search for work in neighbouring Thailand, Nut took his eldest daughter to Phnom Penh to request the services of 1996 Atlanta Olympian Vath Chamroeun, who in early 2000 had taken up coaching.
He trained her to the point of making her strong enough to represent the Kingdom in the SEA Games, but medal sussess was elusive.
Undeterred, Nut persuaded his youngest daughter Samnang to take up wrestling and once again approached Chamroeun, whose coaching instincts meant he could see her talent almost instantly.
As the then head of the wrestling federation, Chamroeun ensured that Samnang could stay in Phnom Penh and pursue wrestling with some of the best coaches available.
Chamroeun’s persistence and her own dogged determination took her to the height of her fame after she won 63kg freestyle gold at the 2013 Myanmar SEA Games, and the following year she became the first female wrestler from Cambodia to win bronze at the Asian Beach Games.
After giving up competitive wrestling and taking up coaching for a while, Samnang is now planning a family with husband Nguon Makara, who is a member of the national wrestling team.
But her father’s death on May 9 came as a devastating blow not only for the family but also for the wrestling community and the cast and crew of the film.
“It was indeed a great loss. A man who was so dedicated to the sport and went to such lengths despite severe economic hardships to see one of his daughters excel in a sport that is a male preserve is something phenomenal,” Chamroeun said.
Chamroeun is now into this third term as the secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia and is one of the central characters in the movie, one where roles are taken by the actual people part of the unfolding narrative.
“I wish Nut Ny had lived long enough to see at least the trailer. He has left us and it is very sad. Instead of feeling that it overshadows our movie release, we now see it as a great tribute to his dedication to the sport,” Sharma told The Post.