Asian Games 2018

Skeet has a good platform in India now, time to win medals: Sheeraz Sheikh set for Asian Games

The India No 1 in skeet is currently training for the upcoming Asian Games in Italy with national coach Ennio Falco, who is an Olympic gold medallist.

While shooting is a sport India excels in, skeet shooting is not as popular, unlike its other shotgun counterparts – trap and double trap. Nor does skeet have a medal-winning track record in shooting.

But this is fast changing, because what skeet does have now is a bunch of talented, young shooters and an Olympic gold medal winning coach in Ennio Falco. With the likes of Sheeraz Sheikh, Angad Vir Bajwa, Saniya Sheikh, Ganemat Shekhon notching consistent scores, it is a discipline where India is steadily getting better at.

For Sheeraz, shooting is a family sport in many ways. His father and grandfather are shooters, his brother Saif is a trap shooter and his cousin Saniya is an international shooter, who has represented India at the Commonwealth Games.

However, shooting was not his first choice. Like so many other Indians, it was cricket. He has even attended Under-16 camps with Karn Sharma and Piyush Chawla. However, the family legacy and bureaucracy in Uttar Pradesh cricket meant that the 30-year-old followed in his family’s footsteps.

The India No 1 in skeet is currently training for the upcoming Asian Games in Italy with national coach Falco, in the hope of getting his first individual medal for the country. Also training there for the last two months are Mairaj Khan, who is preparing for World Championship later in the month, and Asiad-bound India No 1 Ganemat Sekhon.

“I am training well in Italy from last 60 days, where we are shooting every day,” Sheeraz told Scroll.in. “We have been participating in local competitions to gain more match experience, which I think is very important before the main competition.”

Sheeraz has the backing of Falco, who selected him for the ISSF World Cup in Delhi in 2017 even though he was not the first choice. The shooter responded by reaching his first World Cup final and edging out veteran Jesper Hansen. In 2016, he was part of the men’s team that won the bronze medal at the Asian Shotgun Championship in Abu Dhabi.

The Meerut-based shooter is grateful for the tutelage of Falco, who was the gold medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Bringing in the Italian in 2014 was a big an investment in a discipline that India has not traditionally done well in, but the move has paid good dividends, according to Sheeraz, who first made the national team in 2016.

“The National Rifle Association of India and Sports Authority of India has provided us with best foreign coach,” he said. “It’s very important as they have seen the journey we have been on. Ennio is very, very passionate and we have really improved after he came on board. From being nowhere we reached the Olympic Games in skeet (Mairaj at Rio 2016) and we now have seven to eight professional players in skeet. I think we have good platform and now is the time to win some medals we are working hard for it.”

Apart from not being a very accessible sport, skeet shooting is an expensive affair as well. While Sheeraz comes from a family that were able to help him, he has had to make do with not the best of equipment to quite an extent.

“Shotgun shooting is an expensive sport, starting from buying clay targets that cost Rs 6 per target to ammunition costing Rs 30,” Sheeraz said. “The prices of the shotgun start from about Rs 3 lakh. So it requires investment.”

But after his good performances in the 2017 where he reached the final of the ISSF World Cup in Delhi and the Asian Shooting Championship, he was included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme for financial assistance from the Indian government.

“They support you really well, we are now training abroad to prepare for all-important competition coming up.” However, he added that there is still a lot of work to be done for shotgun shooting to be as successful as the rifle and pistol in India.

“I think we need more shotgun ranges in the country, which is slowly starting to happen. Recently, many ranges were built by Manav Rachna with top facilities for the shooters who want to start the sport. We need more ranges and clubs like these to support the new shooters,” he said.

The next target is of course a medal at the Asian Games, followed by the even more vital quest to secure a spot for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“I will be in India on August 15 and then we will leave for Indonesia. Than we have very important World Championship in Korea and the Asian Shooting Championship in Kuwait. The aim is to do well in all of them,” he signed off.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.