Amrit, the school boy from Lohardaga who acted in the film. Telegraph picture
Imagine a schoolboy in rural Jharkhand making a futile attempt to learn maths tables, disturbed as he is by the constant rattle of guns in the background.
A short film has shown this everyday reality in simple cinematic style, thanks to a 24-year-old from Ranchi.
Niranjan Kujur, an alumnus of city-based Bishop Westcott School currently pursuing a three-year diploma at the prestigious Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Calcutta, has made a 17-minute fictional movie titled Pahada (Maths tables), becoming the first person to make a film in the Kurukh language.
Considering that Jharkhand has many tribal speakers, especially the Oraons, who speak Kurukh, a film was long due.
Kujur, a native of Bero, about 40km from the state capital, whose mother tongue is Kurukh, wanted to make a film that focused on Naxalism and its impact on education of children in the hinterland.
“I have seen the disastrous impact of Naxalism on the education of rural children. So, I wanted to make a film on the subject in Kurukh. Incidentally, it is the first fictional film in Kurukh,” said Kujur.
In the movie, a Class V student of a government school in Lohardaga makes an attempt to learn the pahada, but is unable to concentrate with the sounds of gunshot and helicopters and footsteps of the rebels and policemen distracting him every time. The numbers simply fail to make any sense to him.
Kujur could not find the time to come to Jharkhand to shoot in an actual location. He instead created a virtual studio at his own room in Calcutta, lending it a look of a rural setting in Jharkhand by using props such as lanterns and also bringing in chickens.
Also, the actors in his movie are his own relatives, whom he called to Calcutta.
“It was difficult to find professional actors who could speak Kurukh. So I drew inspiration from Turkish film-maker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who, during his early years, made films by casting his own family members,” Kujur said.
While cousin Amrit Oraon played the role of the protagonist, aunt Sumitra Oraon acted as the boy’s mother.
Mahadev Toppo, a bank officer who acted as the boy’s father, is also a relative of Kujur.
The young film-maker, whose parents are schoolteachers in Lohardaga, also holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Sikkim Manipal University.
He is hopeful of screening the short film in social gatherings or even in theatres anytime after September 20. The movie has been edited, while its audiography is in progress.
“As it is the first fictional film in Kurukh, we will try to screen it in theatres by making special arrangements,” said Shriprakash, an internationally acclaimed documentary film-maker of Jharkhand, who inspired Kujur to opt for a career in movies.
Fictional films in Santhali, starting with Chandu Lekhon by Lakhan Murmu in 2001, have caught popular tribal imagination. However, fictional films in tribal tongues such as Kharia, Ho and Mundari are yet to be a reality.
But with young talent such as Kujur, the tide may turn.