Once in my viva exam in Baranagar Ramkrishna Mission, I was asked to name three animals in the African jungle. ‘Lion, lioness and the cub,’ pat came my reply. It was honest, impromptu and straight from the heart. But my teacher almost fainted hearing this. While it pretty much summed up my interest in academics, the line, which shook up my teacher like there was an earthquake, has made it to Haami 2, our Christmas offering. It’s truly time to kiss my childhood back. There are just so many things that I could rectify if I were allowed to visit those years just one more time. I thought them through when Didi (Nandita Roy) and I decided to make Haami 2. Thank God for the film!
Among the first things I remember was my longing to be on stage like the topper of Section A, Ashish Ghosh. Every year, tirelessly, he would clamber on to the stage in the auditorium and slowly but steadily pick up all the awards in academics. I secretly wished if I could be like him. I wanted to walk the stage with pride but my interest in textbooks was zilch.
Then, from Class III, things took a drastic yet happy turn for me. There were the extracurriculars and I started taking part in elocution, recitation, debate, plays, lifting more awards than one could ever imagine. There I was like wildfire setting the forest ablaze. I felt no pressure from home, my parents only inspired me to do my own things, hone my skills and I was secretly fanning my own fiery dreams to excel in subjects that made sense to me. I think every child has something to offer and the parents just need to identify that. Excelling in academics is not everything and I am a living witness to that.
In Class VIII, I became friends with Avijit Roy, the nerdy topper from Section D. He was not just great in studies; his handwriting was beautiful. He was a favourite with the teachers, but the students hated him. No one could match up to his skills in academics and they started alienating him. Avijit had no friends till my bestie, Sumanta Mukhopadhyay, and I walked into his life. I remember Avijit would wear long half pants to school and our classmates would tease him, calling him the ‘habildar’. Once I picked up the compass from my Geometry box and threatened everyone with dire consequences should Avijit be teased again. That made the rowdies back off. Avijit, Sumanta and I were soon as thick as thieves.
Between us there was no sense of competition. On days I missed school, he would share his class notes, while Sumanta and I introduced him to fun activities that were alien to him before. He started cycling and taking swimming lessons at Baranagar’s Pramanik Ghat. Now Avijit lives and works in the US and happens to be a certified trainer of scuba diving.
In fact, it is scuba diving that makes him travel from country to country and Sumanta, who was more or less my carbon copy in school, happens to be an eminent professor of Bengali.
I don’t know if there’s anything called the perfect childhood but I now know irritants that can come in its way. Competition is one of them. Because the idea is to excel, there’s always pressure on children to do so. That breeds cut-throat competition. But it’s important to know where to draw the line. What if I am not a genius or not even half as good as my neighbourhood topper? There are so many times that a child performer is referred to as a ‘genius’ on reality TV. Judges are quick to judge and they make us believe that geniuses are those who we find every day in our drawing rooms through television.
But fact is a Shreya Ghoshal was crowned as the winner of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa way back in 2000. Even Arijit Singh was not a voice that won Fame Gurukul in 2005, but is now ruling the roost in the music industry. So, winning and losing are cogs in the wheel of life. The wheel goes on and so does life.
Haami 2, which is the sequel of 2018’s Haami, releases in theatres on December 23. Directed by Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee, this movie stars Gargee Roychowdhury, Shiboprosad Mukherjee, Kharaj Mukherjee, Prosenjit and Anjan Dutt with three child actors in the lead. The story revolves around an eight-year-old boy, who is a prodigal child. He can perform difficult mathematical problems, understand tough social and economic issues and can pop answers within seconds of asking a question. Team Windows launched the song No chaap at a grand event, where more than 40 kids performed in a flash mob on the song, and Laltu, Mitali and their kids made a grand entry in an open-hooded and beautifully decorated Austin car driven by Laltu himself.
Children bring us enough happiness and in turn, we too need to make them happy, give them the scope to perform better, guide them in their studies, help them choose, but in the end, leave them to do what they really want.
The essence of Haami 2 is just that — it’s not looking at childhood through an adult pair of eyes but re-living the salad days with children. No wonder we had three children in major parts and 78 others adding every bit of their wonder to the film. Haami 2 is about the small joys of life — the joy of discovering a bird’s egg on the terrace or breaking the piggy bank to check how many coins were saved over the months or just lying down and watching airplanes disappear into the clouds. Haami 2, as I said, is kissing back at your childhood. As an adult, I had the best time doing it.