Chess is the only game where the blind can play on a par with the sighted,” says Charudatta Jadhav in the opening sequence of Algorithms, a documentary on blind chess in India. Made by British filmmaker Ian McDonald, it chronicles the lives of three aspiring visually challenged chess players — Darpan Inani (21), Sai Krishna ST (19) and Anant Kumar Nayak (22) — and their coach Jadhav, who lost his eyesight at the age of 13.
Shot over two-and-a-half years, across various blind chess tournaments in the country and abroad, the film begins with the National Championship in Mumbai, in 2009. “When Ian approached me for the film, I told him that our community should not be portrayed as a liability. I don’t want people to look at us with sympathy,” says Mumbai-based Jadhav.
Forty six-year-old Jadhav, a lover of all kinds of sports, developed a keen interest in chess after losing his sight. During the Bombay Textile Strike of the ’80s, his father found himself without employment. Soon, the family was forced to go through tough times, hampering Jadhav’s education. “It was the worst phase of my life,” he says. However, he picked up the pieces and dedicated all of his time to the game. “Chess gave me a sense of equality,” he says.
Ian McDonald during the filming of the documentary
In 1985, Jadhav played his first district tournament and won against other sighted contenders. Armed with this confidence, he started participating in championships including six World Chess Championships and two Blind Olympiads. However, in 2007, he gave up professional chess so that he could concentrate on training others like him. “If I would’ve continued, I could have easily been a grandmaster but it would just be me. Today, we have 113 top players in the country,” says Jadhav, who currently heads the Accessibility Center of Excellence at TCS.
With many wins, accolades and achievements behind him, Jadhav trains aspiring visually challenged chess players. He spends a lot of time developing software that can help these players learn the game. In the film too, Jadhav is a tough but supportive coach.
Watch the trailer of Algorithms
Algorithms also looks at the human aspect of the sport — the sorrow of losing a game and the struggles the players’ families go through. For instance, after Inani’s loss, his mother is overcome by despair but puts on a strong front. In another sequence, when Sai Krishna loses in the first round at the World Championship, he calls up his father in Chennai and breaks down. “Such emotional aspects are deeply personal, but they capture the realities,” says Jadhav.
Though the film was shot in colour, it was converted to black and white. The documentary has won several awards including the Best Editing Award at the Mumbai International Film Festival and Best Foreign Documentary Award at LA Femme Film Festival, Los Angeles.
A chessboard for the blind
(Algorithms releases this Friday, and will be screened across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi. For a detailed schedule, visit:in.bookmyshow.com)
(The writer tweets as @CultureCola )