Kerala is one of the few football-frenzied states in the country. There are scores of small clubs across the state, and dedicated tournaments are being conducted regularly. A few of the films coming out of Kerala are about love for the game. Sudani from Nigeria and Captain are some of the prominent films that cover the game of football. Sesham Mike-il Fathima, loosely translated to ‘Up next on the mic, Fathima’, written and directed by Manu C. Kumar, is about a young girl who aspires to be a football commentator and the obstacles she comes across on her journey to be one.
Why Was Fathima Called A Chatterbox?
Fathima comes from a humble background where her father and brother run a mechanic shop, and her mother is a homemaker. On her grandmother’s insistence, Fathima was sent to an English school so that the young girl could grow up to be someone her grandmother couldn’t be—a smart, independent girl. From a young age, the name Chatterbox stuck with her because she was known to converse nonstop with everyone around her. Offering running commentary on films and cartoon shows was her specialty while growing up. The name was apt, as it fit well with her personality. Her slightly conservative parents hoped her talkative behavior would change eventually, but it turns out Fathima was the same sixteen years later.
How Did Fathima Foray Into Commentary?
Fathima’s older brother, Asif, was a part of a club that was set to organize a football game. He and other members were on the lookout for commentators, as the popular ones were busy with other projects. Asif’s friends suggested Fathima be the commentator, as having a female commentator would be good publicity for their club as well. Asif offered her the job, which Fathima was apprehensive about initially. As nervous as she was before the match, Fathima was incredible once she was behind the mic, and everyone present at the stadium was impressed with her. Female football commentators were rare, but she was slowly getting a hang of how the work was done by taking up every local commentary job that came her way.
Why Did Fathima Take Up A Job In Cochin?
Fathima, being a girl in her twenties, was surrounded by elders who convinced her father to get her married. Since her venturing into commentary was known to everybody in the town, it was only essential for them to clip her wings and make sure she was not allowed to become independent. Fathima was forced to meet a potential groom, but things went out of hand because of her talkative nature. Fathima, under the pretext of having received an internship offer, moved to Cochin in the hope of pursuing a full-time job as a commentator. Her internship at a lab was only a maneuver to obtain some financial backing. The popularity she gained in her hometown, she was hoping to use it to her benefit. She was willing to put up a struggle so that she could come seek out any chance or window to let her talent be discovered for the bigger leagues.
What Were The Struggles Fathima Was Facing?
On reaching Cochin, Fathima and her journalist friend tried to knock on many doors in the hope of getting any leads that could procure her an interview. As she only had YouTube videos as part of her portfolio, not many were interested in offering her a job, especially Jayesh Nair, the President of the Football Federation of Kerala. Jayesh Nair and his deputy did not pay any heed to Fathima since they were political appointees who had zero knowledge of the game. She requested help from Shaiju Damodaran, the renowned sportscaster, but he was helpless as well. He asked her to approach Shiva, who runs the broadcast division of the IFL, but getting an appointment with him was a difficult proposition.
Fathima ended up having to work for a small soccer academy to stay closer to the game and make contacts that could connect her to the IFL. One of the controversial soccer players, Solomon, whose career was under review because of a dope test gone wrong, decided to help Fathima achieve her dream. Every door they knocked on was blocked by two major obstacles: Jayesh Nair and Shiva. Jayesh Nair was driven by ego and was making sure Fathima was not given any chance to speak at any live small-scale football matches, including the ones in her hometown. On the other hand, meeting Shiva of the IFL was becoming a difficult task as the days went by, and Fathima was running out of options. Fathima was confident in her skill, thanks to words of encouragement from her family and friends. Jayesh Nair was tripping on his power, and just like any other non-achiever, he ousted Fathima, implying she should look for jobs that were suited only for women.
Does Fathima Get A Chance To Be A Commentator On Ifl?
Fathima was berated by her father for not doing a serious job and seeking a dream she may never be able to achieve because of her gender and financial status. Fathima felt all the doors were being slammed in her face, and maybe her father was indeed right about not aiming for dreams that could be out of reach. Fathima wanted to believe in herself, but realistically, the only people who could help her were hard to crack. Fathima’s father, Muneer, was livid at her for being dishonest about her job in Cochin. His anger was justified because his upbringing never allowed him to aim for unattainable things. Fathima tapped into the love her father had for the game as an ex-football player. Her father was not willing to believe in her dreams because, just like every parent from the subcontinent, unless they see positive results, it would be difficult for them to have faith in the path their children chose to take.
Fathima was asked to showcase her commentary skills at an event conducted by Ramya for the kids. This commentary garnered her accolades from the children and their parents. Right after that, Fathima was given Shiva’s contact number and an appointment to meet him. Fathima was excited about the prospect of coming closer to her dream of bagging the job. We believe this was too good to be true for Fathima because she was directly given the chance to meet the man who could make or break her dream of becoming a commentator.
On the day of the interview, Fathima was slapped by her father, who decided to take her back to Malappuram from Cochin without her consent. This plot point came out of nowhere, added in the last-minute obstacle so that there could be some drama as Sesham Mike-il Fathima was heading toward a climax. The slap Fathima endured was considered a minor discretion, and the makers tried to justify the action. This was a female-led drama where a woman was being showcased as driven and wanting to achieve her dreams. A slap without consequences puts the message of the film on the backfoot. Even though the lead, Fathima, takes the slap as something she may have deserved because it was from a parent, the moment was considered a common practice.
Fathima convinced her father and brother to let her go because she knew this was her calling, and both agreed to drop her off at the IFL office for the meeting with Shiva. Fathima’s brother acknowledged her hard work and his support, which encouraged her to be the best during the meeting. Shiva was impressed by her commentary skills at the event and the YouTube videos he had come across of her. Even though Jayesh Nair was against her giving an audition, Shiva offered her a chance to give commentary on an old football video. Shiva was one of the few men who were willing to give her a chance because he believed in her talent. He might be seeing a lot of himself in Fathima’s vigor and love for the job.
Despite his interest in hiring her, he could not, because of the strict rules and scheduling. Her verbal and vernacular skills were impressive, but the rules of the organization could not be altered, and it was not realistic cinema. Fathima on being mansplained to by Jayesh Nair about the game of football, responds with the accurate knowledge she has about the game, which comes from watching football for many years. This was her way to make Jayesh look insignificant. Shiva was impressed by her football knowledge and hired her on the spot. Sesham Mike-il Fathima ends with Fathima finally joining the IFL commentary room as a commentator next to Shaiju Damodaran. Shaiju introduced her in his style and thus began her journey as the first female commentator.