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"I climbed Mount Everest to prove that women can do anything'

By Patcy N
April 02, 2017 10:00 IST
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'Before I climbed Everest, nobody knew me. But after that, people come to meet me. It's an exciting life!'

Meet the real and the reel Poorna girls!

IMAGE: Rahul Bose, Aditi Inamdar and Poorna Malavath. Photograph: Poorna/Twitter

Rahul Bose's second directorial venture Poorna released to mixed reviews. 

The film is based on Poorna Malavath, who holds the world record of being the youngest girl to climb Mount Everest at 13.

While Poorna is "very happy" to have a film on her, she's become good friends with the girl who plays her, Aditi Inamdar.

Poorna says it all happened when she and her father met Bose and R S Praveen Kumar, the secretary of the Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (incidentally, Bose plays him in the film) in Hyderabad.

"Rahul sir narrated the story and all of us loved it because it was my life," Poorna says.


IMAGE: Rahul Bose, Poorna Malavath, Aditi Inamdar and R S Praveen Kumar. Photograph: Poorna/Twitter

Poorna lives in a small tribal village in the Pakala district in Telangana. She studied up to Standard Five in her village and moved to the Social Welfare school, located far away. "Luckily, I got the opportunity to climb mountains when I was in Standard 9," she says.

She's always been active in sports, including Kabbadi and volleyball.

When Poorna's sports teacher asked her whether she was interested in climbing Mount Everest, the little girl said she did not know anything about it. But once her teacher explained what it was all about, Poorna got interested. "It was different from all the sports that I play," she explains.

Two girls from her school participated in the training camp in September 2013. The first training was at Bhuvanagiri, Telanagana, where there was a 650 feet high rock. There were 110 student participants from all the Social Welfare Schools in all.

Twenty students were selected to go to Darjeeling and learn how to walk in snow. From there, nine students went to Ladak for the winter expedition and how to adjust to the cold weather.

Among them, two were selected to train for the Mount Everest for three months.

The other student was a boy named Sadhanapalii Anand Kumar from the Khammam district in Telangana.

Poorna's expedition got over in 52 days. "I had no major problems during the expedition, except vomiting due to the high altitudes. The toughest part was to travel from the Advance Base Camp to Camp One because it was very steep trekking. It took me eight hours," she says.

Poorna's reached the summit May 21, 2014, at 6 am.

"The moment I reached the top, I called Praveen Kumar sir, who had come with me to the base through a satellite phone. I told him I have reached and he was very happy. I looked all around the Mount Everest. There are huge mountains and nothing else. After spending 15 minutes on top, I came back," she describes.

Why did she climb Mount Everest? "I did it to prove that women can do anything. This film will tell the message to the world. People watch this film and will get inspired," she replies.

But she realised only two days later that she had made a world record.


IMAGE: Poorna Malavath with her family. Photograph: Poorna/Twitter

Poorna doesn't watch films usually but she's watched the one on her life at a special screening with her family. "It was nostalgic, as it actually happened in my life. There's only one difference -- I have a sister in the film, which I don't in real life. I would say it is a 90 percent true story."

"I cried after watching the film. My parents also cried. They were very happy. Everyone was saying that I'm inspiring people, so it felt nice," she adds.

Poorna, in fact, has a brother, who is studying for a BTech degree. "My parents treated both of us equally," she says. "But the people in my village would always say girls are good for nothing, only the boys of the house will do something for the house. I would wonder why people talk like that."

After Mount Everest, Poorna climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa, on August 15, 2016.

Though she wants to climb other mountains too, Poorna, who has just given her Standard 12 exams, wants to become an IPS officer, "like Praveen Kumar sir."

How much has life changed?

"Before I climbed Everest, nobody knew me. But after that, people come to meet me. It's an exciting life!" she exclaims.

The state government has awarded her with a house, a five acre land and Rs 25 lakh.


IMAGE: Aditi Inamdar and Poorna Malavath. Photograph: Poorna/Twitter

"When I saw Aditi Inamdar play my character, I thought she was just like me. In fact, it was very confusing because she behaved exactly like me. She has done a good job," Poorna says.

Poorna spent a week with the cast and crew during the shoot in the Pakala village.

"While watching the shooting, I realised climbing Everest is easier! Acting is more difficult," she laughs.


IMAGE: Rahul Bose and Aditi Inamdar on the sets of Poorna. Photograph: Poorna/Twitter

Aditi Inamdar is still grappling with her newfound fame.

When I met her, she had fever. Yet, she was ready to talk about her first feature film.

"When I read about the story, I loved it. I knew it would be difficult but not impossible," she says.

Aditi, 14, is from Hyderabad and faced quite a few difficulties: "I am from the city. My first day shoot was in her village, where there are no proper facilities. You won't even find a shop, it is totally different from the city."

The toughest scene was when she had to 'drown.'

"I used to be scared of water but now I am not. Rahul helped me a lot, he motivated me. I don't know how to swim and that's why I was scared. But he trained me so well that I am not scared of water anymore," she says.

Shooting in Sikkim and Darjeeling was tough too, due to the cold. "It was unbearable," she says. "I would dizzy at high altitudes. Even walking with a snow suit is tough."

The best part about her friendship with Poorna is that "we can converse in a common language: Telugu!"

Aditi has done two short films before -- Gaurav Bal's Chachi's Funeral in Hindi and one in Telugu ("I don't even know it's name!") After she finishes her Standard 10 exams, she will decide on her career -- acting is definitely an option, she says with a smile. And she would probably like to share the screen with her favourite actor, Sushant Singh Rajput!

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Patcy N / in Mumbai