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Indian short film in Oscar race

Ashvin Kumar's "Little Terrorist" has made it, where "Shwaas" failed, to the Oscars' nominations list, but in the Short Film category. Shot on a shoe-string budget and in five days, it has won prizes at several international festivals, says LEKHA J. SHANKAR.



"Little Terrorist" ... imbued with humour, irony and tension, it provides riveting drama.

WHILE THE Marathi feature, "Shwaas," created much Oscar-buzz, it is the short film, "Little Terrorist," that is finally in the Oscars race. It is the first Indian film in this category to get nominated. The movie has been screened both at the Goa, and more recently, the Bangkok International Film Festivals, where the young director, Ashvin Kumar, said he was `delighted' by the nomination.

The film has made it to the final 12 of the Oscar entries, which by itself is rewarding to Kumar. For he made it on a shoe-string budget, where the entire team worked for free! ``They worked hard for the film and deserve full credit!'' exclaimed the director, who is the son of well-known fashion designer, Ritu Kumar.

The 15-minute film was made with a crew from London, cast from India, whom Kumar selected through the Net! ``I put my script on the Net, and 15 people applied!'' he laughed. The London crew paid for their ticket to Rajasthan, where the film was shot among the sand dunes in five days flat! The costumes were designed by Ritu Kumar, who spent more than three months to research on the authentic costumes of the local Rabari tribes of Rajasthan.

Tale of humanity

The story deals with a 10 year-old Pakistani boy, Salim, who accidentally crosses into the Indian border, while looking for his cricket ball, and becomes a victim of the war between the two countries. He is mistaken for a terrorist and is hunted by the police.

A staunch Brahmin, Bhola, and his daughter hide him. They shave off his hair, so that he looks like an authentic Brahmin kid. When the police raid the home, and ask him his name, they pretend he is dumb.

After the police leave, they escort him back across the border. His family is ecstatic to see him, but is shocked by his shaven head. While they stare in horror, he laughs in relief.



Ashvin Kumar is delighted that his delectably crafted movie has been selected.

It is a story of humanity that crosses all borders, a delectably-crafted movie, that is imbued with humour, irony, tension and makes for a riveting drama. In between, Kumar weaves in a delectable mix of local Rajasthani folk rhythms that add to the atmospherics of the drama.

``It's the post-9/11 scenario all over the world,'' said Kumar, ``terrorism is the buzz-word today, and affects simple, ordinary people in the remote corners of India.'' The film won the top prize in a plethora of festivals, including Montreal, Mannheim, Flanders, and Teheran, which is how it qualified for the Oscars and also for the European Academy Awards.

Kumar did a degree in Media Communications at Goldsmith College, London, and then directed several plays, commercials, short films, in India.

Big feature

He returned to London to do a brief course at the London Film School, where he also scripted and directed two short films. In 2002, Kumar made a 50-minute feature, "Road to Ladakh." It is a gripping film set in the lush mountains of Ladakh, with Irrfan Khan playing the lead.

The film was screened at the Cannes Festival, where it attracted the attention of Richard Dreyfuss' production company, which now wants it to be made into a big feature, with an American actress. Kumar has named it "The Forest," and will be location-hunting for the film soon.

He is eyeing the lush greens of Chiangmai,in the north of Thailand, as a possible location. ``It is easier to get permits and permission here than in India and the facilities seem excellent," he said.

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