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Subtle communication


Swetha and Archana in "Aayeeshaa" ... representing a rare bond.

PACKAGING SOCIAL issues, sentiments, strong emotions and a little levity within a thin storyline and presenting it with its poignancy intact, calls for immense skill on the part of the creator and the crew. And if all these are to be achieved in a short film spanning a duration of just 30 minutes, the challenge is even greater. VB films ``Aayeeshaa'' has met the challenges and is forging ahead, winning laurels on its way.

Adjudged the best short film by Cine Sangam at the London Tamil short film festival last year and selected for competition at the international level at the 12th International Children's Film Festival in Hyderabad, ``Aayeeshaa'' has gone on to bag the second best short film award at the recent Mumbai International Film Festival (for documentary, short and animation films). The honour included a silver conch and a cash prize of Rs.1,00,000.

R.Bhuvanah, creative director and producer of ``Aayeeshaa'' and an experienced journalist tele-film maker, believes that her creations should have a purpose — a strong social message. And ``Aayeeshaa'' does not have just one.

The title role played by Swetha, whose capabilities as a versatile child artiste has already been witnessed in films such as Santosh Sivan's ``Malli'' and Janaki Viswanathan's ``Kutty'', sails through ``Aayeeshaa'' with the ease of a veteran.

``Swetha's is a very camera-friendly face, and she knows just where to look and how to face the camera for a shot'', eulogises `Aayeeshaa's cinematographer C.J.Rajkumar. ``I owe the opportunity to work in ``Aayeeshaa'' to Thankar Bachchan,'' says Raj Kumar, who has worked as Thankar's assistant in quite a few films.

Aayeeshaa is a class VII student with thirst for knowledge. Her scientific queries fascinate her teacher (a role portrayed with empathy by Archana) and a unique teacher-student relationship develops.

But everything is thwarted when Aayeeshaa carries her curiosity to the extreme.

The need to encourage a child's urge to learn — a girl child's in particular — bonds that transcend religion, caste and creed, and most importantly, the catastrophic effects of corporal punishment inflicted on children in schools, have been tellingly dwelt upon in ``Aayeeshaa''.

Kalairani, as the aunt of Aayeeshaa, steeped in old world ideas that a girl's place begins and ends in the kitchen, represents the other side.

``When I read the story by Ira.Natarajan, (a prize-winning piece published in the Tamil magazine ``Kanaiyazhi``) I felt, the layers of messages it conveyed should reach as many people as possible,'' says B.Sivakumar, the film's director, who makes his debut with ``Aayeeshaa'', though he has worked as assistant and associate in films like ``Kannadhirae Thondrinaal'' and ``Kutty''. ``I had the script ready and Thankar Bachchan had introduced me to the right people. But even after two years I was looking out for the Aayeeshaa, I had in mind. The search ended as soon as I set eyes on Swetha on the sets of ``Kutty'', says Sivakumar. Incidentally the entire shooting of ``Aayeeshaa'' was completed in just three and a half days.

Producer Bhuvanah also voices a similar opinion. ``I agreed to make the film only with Swetha in mind and I am happy with the result,'' she explains. But such films ought to be encouraged.

It is a film that should be watched by students, teachers and parents alike. Schools can play a positive role in this,'' she adds.

Even otherwise Natarajan's story has found many takers. As he is the principal of a school himself, he has been able to project his ideas with force.

"UNESCO has taken up the story as a project and has translated and distributed several copies of the book. ``Aayeeshaa'' has been adopted for street theatre presentation also", Sivakumar informs.

The film has melodrama and traces of the didactic — but all these at appealing levels. And they seem essential to drive the messages home. Levity is seen in the puerile conversation in the staff room of the school.

``Aayeeshaa'' is bound to make an impact on those who watch the film. ``We screened the film at a school in Tiruppur. At the end of it, about 20 teachers walked up to us and said that they would take a vow not to beat students anymore. It was a memorable moment for us,'' concludes Sivakumar with emotion.

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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