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The real Poorna speaks of her epic journey to Mount Everest

The subject of the upcoming film directed by Rahul Bose, Malavath Poorna recounted her historic climb at a conclave on women empowerment in Mumbai.

Sonal Pandya

Leading up to scaling Mount Everest, Malavath Poorna experienced many firsts — the first time she went on a plane to the first time she saw snow. But all the wonders of new experiences could not deter her from her ultimate goal, to reach the highest peak in the world.

Sitting alongside panellists Sakshi Malik, Zoya Akhtar and Barkha Dutt, the 16-year-old said, “Training is different, expedition is different. Death, avalanches, I don’t think about all that. Only one goal is there, I want to fulfil my dream and those who are waiting for my success. I want to prove that girls can do anything.” Malavath was only 13 at the time.

A young tribal girl from a small village in Telangana, Malavath enrolled in the Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society for further education and became interested in a rock climbing class. Despite her initial fear, she took to mountaineering and was selected for a training expedition in Ladakh and later made it to the final frontier.

At the Everest base camp, she faced many hurdles, adjusting to the weather and high altitude, and thus falling ill. “I found going to base one from the advance base camp very tough. It’s steep climbing. The advanced based camp is 6,400 metres and camp one is 7,100 metres. It took eight hours to reach there,” she said. The artificial oxygen cylinders, each one is four kgs. For each one, we have to use six to seven cylinders. That was more than my own weight.”

On the last night before they had to climb the final summit, Malavath had a bit of a scare when she felt faint. Poorna (the film) director Rahul Bose, who was moderating the panel, informed the audience that actually the oxygen in her cylinder was over and she was going to die. But it was quickly refilled.

Malavath reached the summit on 25 May 2014 and became the youngest Indian girl to do so. The Indian flag was proudly lifted up at 6 am and placed the photo of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. She said she was very happy at last fulfilling her dream and “had no words to express” herself.

When asked about what hurdles she had to overcome, Malavath said, “My inspiration is Dr RS Praveen Kumar [secretary of her school], he is my role model. We have the ten commandments in our school. The ten commandment is ‘I shall never give up’ and the first commandment is ‘I am not inferior to anyone.’”

Bose returned to direction after a gap of 16 years with this inspiring tale which will hit theatres on 31 March. Newcomer Aditi Inamdar takes on Malavath's role in the film.

Watch the trailer of the film: