Raajhorshee De’s film A Separate Sky, that has been travelling the festival circuit since last year and bringing back home honours and accolades (it has won 52 awards already), has added another feather to its cap, with Film for Peace Festival, 2021, Toronto, Canada crowning it with three awards -— Best Actress award for Richa Sharma, Best Film Over 30 Minutes and Best Producer. Produced under the banner of David & Goliath Films by Lal Bhatia and Imran Zaki, the film’s love story between a Muslim professor, played by Richa Sharma, and a Hindu student, played by Bonny Sengupta, develops against the backdrop of the uproar against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC of 2019.
Amidst the student unrest against the oppressive forces of the central power, the religious oppression on the people of the country, a voice that rose above every opinion was Aamir Aziz’s poem Sab Yaad Rakha Jayega, which was also the initial inspiration for the film and is narrated in the film. “Till date I have not made any political statement in any of my films. So, when this JNU or Jamia Millia incident happened, as an artiste it disturbed me very much. I wanted to voice out something and for me the medium must be a film. The subject was very powerful. The first film that stood against CAA and NRC. The student politics, Jamia Millia everything was there in the film. So, we were initially very skeptical about the film as it could face controversy. We shot during the lockdown in small units and that helped us avoid the shooting challenges that we could have faced. The film was made keeping in mind the festival circuit only because we knew that releasing it nationally would be challenging. We would have to compromise with censor cuts of scenes that are important for the film. But internationally the response is phenomenal. We shot this Hindi film with all regional artistes from Bengal, no big Bollywood names. When the entire cast and crew started putting their efforts together, we knew it was going to hit the right chord with people and the statement is working across borders,” said Raajhorshee.
Ranieeta and Richa in the film
On winning the Best Actress award for the film for her character Ruksana, Richa said, “Our subject was so powerful that I knew it would make an impact on people. I am thankful to David & Goliath that they came on board and Raajhorshee for giving me the opportunity. He never compromises on the set and gave me a lot of freedom to play my character, he understands my nerves. We went through elaborate workshops for the film but the character of Ruksana was always within me. Even before I played her on screen, she is me. The first time we saw the film, we had all cried,” said Richa.
The script was written by Ebong Ipsita, and the song has been sung by Anupam Roy and written by the director himself. It has an interesting cast too. “We have always seen Richa in a very glam look. But in the film she is portrayed very differently in typical Bengal handloom saris and the way her character was portrayed was phenomenal. Every character in the film, be it Kamaleswar Mukherjee speaking Hindi or Bonny like we have never seen him before or even Sudipta Chakraborty had outstanding performances. Our statement throughout the film has been very clear that India is a secular country and no particular religion or a particular language drives the country, it is its people. You cannot challenge the people in showing them what is their right identity,” added Raajhorshee, who is looking forward to showing the film nationally and at the state level soon.