The five students with the trophy outside their school. Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha
A film by a group of Calcutta boys received a best film award beating 200 entries from eight countries at an international children's film fest recently.
Hue Am I? won the Golden Elephant trophy for the best film in the Little Directors category at the 19th Golden Elephant, International Children's Film Festival, India, 2015.
The 13-minute film by five students of La Martiniere for Boys was screened four times in seven days of the festival. The final screening was on November 20 after the winners had been declared.
"When we left for the festival we knew we would miss a test... but not that we would win an award," said Shreevar Chhotaria who missed his commerce and literature test.
Three of the five Class XII boys attended the festival at the expense of missing a test but gaining a lot - from being treated as "royalties" to their film making an entry into the school archives.
" Spectre released on November 20... it coincided with the closing day of the festival," said Arya Ganguli. "Our film was screened at 11am, an hour before the first show of the Bond film." Arya missed his literature and physics test.
Hue Am I?, produced by Last Minute Production House, shows the effeminate side of men while trying to break stereotypes such as "men shouldn't cry or men can't be 1D fans or pout or dance like a girl".
Apart from Arya and Shreevar, the group had Vaibhav Dubey, Ravjit Singh and Atif Dagman. They shot the film in the school's The Round Chapel, classrooms and at the home of one of the boys.
Shravan Kumar, the festival director, had introduced the Little Directors category for students between 6 and 16 at the last edition of the biennial fest.
"This category helps bust myths like filmmaking is the preserve of children belonging to the elite class," Kumar said. "Some of the productions are by students with very humble backgrounds."
John Rafi, principal of La Martiniere for Boys, termed the boys "talented". "Their achievement makes us proud... it's not about academics alone... they are passionate about whatever they do."
The boys had made the film in August 2014 for the first inter-school short-film festival, Phoenix, at La Martiniere for Boys.
Film editor Arghyakamal Mitra had suggested a topic, "Who looks after her?", to the boys at a workshop before the festival.
In a week, the boys shot the film with a Canon XA 10 using a tripod stand, a mike, a couple of headphones and flashlights - all school property.
"The inter-school festival started off as a challenge after the boys won an award for short film-making at the Kolkata International Children's Film Festival," said Abja Adhikari, the teacher in charge of the school's Readers' Club. "The following year we hosted a film festival and have continued to do so."
She said making films was also a way to nurture reading habits among the boys.
"Students are extremely tech-savvy these days... they can pick up any kind of technology. Why not then create a medium where they can express themselves?"
The boys, "trendsetters" as they are called in school, have a fan following among juniors who are picking up editing and film-making tips from them.