A film by Mukti Krishan, in partnership with Prime & Fire Selects, Talenthouse and BFI Future Film; The Mud Warriors takes a look at Kushti. Kushti, for your information, is a 3,000-year-old- traditional type of Indian mud wrestling that originated in Persia.
The film focuses on Nilesh Madhale, a 24-year-old wrestler from Karad. As the sport of Kushti drifts into a dark demise, Madale and his fellow athletes face a struggle to survive. The Mud Warriors shines a light on people who do their sport, not for financial gain but, for the sheer love of it.
With overpaid sports star, seemingly, around every street corner nowadays, The Mud Warriors is an important reminder of the escapism offered by sport. Madhale knows that Kushti won’t make him rich and famous, but he does it anyway. Because he’s passionate about it, and because he finds freedom within it. No matter what sport you’re into, we think that’s a message everyone can relate to.
Prime & Fire Selects, in association with Factory Media, is an annual film competition giving up-and-coming filmmakers the funds and support to create short human-interest documentaries within the realms of action sports.
We spoke to Mukti Krishan about his experience with Nilesh, what motivated him to make a film about mud wrestling, and his plans for the future.
It took me a while to realise I enjoyed telling these types of stories. I was a Special FX artist in animation, then moved to cinematography and now am in a happy place where I work as a photographerm and also write and direct fiction and non-fiction content.
It was Charudatta Rane who had the idea to make something about mud wrestling. We read a news article that piqued our curiosity, and this ultimately led us to visit one of the akharas (wrestling arenas) in Mumbai. The space was so moody and atmospheric, and we both saw it exactly the way we ended up shooting it.
We both knew we had to do something around it.
Nilesh, our protagonist, was the most enthusiastic of the lot. His pragmatic, matter of fact view of life was something I found most interesting. He had this amazing ability to simplify the most complex of issues, find a solution and move forward.
Despite his dire circumstances, there was no self pity.
That, in itself, requires so much courage. Accepting your circumstances, making the best of what you have, and moving forward when things don’t work out.
Nilesh, even though he’s a national champion and a very passionate sportsman knows in his heart that this is a dying sport. But he’s willing to move forward with a positive attitude and do what is right not only for him, but also for his family.
Before the filming took place we hung out a lot with these guys, and invested time in getting to know who they were and what made them tick. Then we slowly brought in the cameras and charted a loose structure to the film rather than a concrete story.
Initially, nobody was interested in even talking to us. And since many of them have a hectic routine that starts at 4am, they considered us a to be a hindrance.
It took us a while to convince them that we would be unobtrusive, so we just had to hang in there and keep our cool as much as possible.
When we finally connected with them, the rapport we struck with the wrestlers was special. From not being interested in talking to us, to actually caring for us so much that they’d bring us food, and help to carry our equipment (since we were a crew of only three).
Meeting Nilesh has in, someway, affected all of us. A young man of 24 years of age managed to give all of us a valuable life lesson.
Focus only on the things that are in your control.
I’ve learnt so much about the lifestyle of a mud wrestler, and a whole heap of stuff about life in general. Generally speaking, solutions are simple. But, as humans, we tend to complicate things too much,
We had a responsibility to accurately represent the community and the sport without being manipulative. When we showed the film to these guys, and saw their reaction, we realised that we were definitely the right track.
I’m currently working on two short sport-based documentaries, and raising funds for my first feature film.