Sunday, September 19, 2004

"Little Terrorist" and the Oscar that could be

A story that gripped the Indian media earlier is now turning heads in the international film festival circuit. “Little Terrorist”, a short film inspired by Munir, the 13-year-old boy who strayed across from Pakistan to Rajasthan in 2003, has won the top award in the short film category at the Festival des Films du Monde in Montreal in the first week of September.

It was shot in Boraj, near Jaipur, earlier this year. Having been also screened at the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films in the US and the London International Film Festival, it is reported to be the first Indian short film to qualify for the Academy Awards.

But Ashvin Kumar, the director of the film, is not “losing any sleep” over the Oscar. “The odds of winning something like the Oscar are quite slim. I’ve only gone past the first round of qualification. Dilli dur aast,” he said in an email interview from London, where he is based. The script was completed in “a day or so” after Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was the PM then, decided to send Munir back home. With Swiss cameraman Markus Huersch, the 15-minute film was shot in about five days and features Salim, a street-child with the Salaam Baalak Trust, in the lead role.

“The film is at once universal and humanitarian. After 15 minutes you feel that you’ve actually spent time with these people,” wrote Kumar. “All the departments have worked together on a shoe-string budget to create a polished piece of work,” he added. Efforts are on to get Indian broadcasters and specialty-fare theatres to screen it.

A “dedicated fan” of Iranian filmmakers like Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Kumar felt that children are less conscious on screen. “Adults, specially professionals, want to give a performance and have to be stripped down to their bare essence. In a kid, it’s already there,” he said. Kumar is currently working on a “cracking movie, the likes of which has not been seen in India”. Provisionally titled “The Forest”, the plot involves three people in the jungle with “a lot of suspense, thrills and spills”.

Even his earlier film “Road to Ladakh” is being made into a feature film with Irfan Khan acting against an American star. “A film should have some kind of human or social resonance. It should delve in complex yet sympathetic characters that an audience can relate to and of course tell a good story around them,” said.


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