With an aim to create awareness about the inhuman practice of witch hunting, prevailing in Assam and other parts of the country, the Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI) is set to present feature film ‘Ishu’.
The movie is based on noted Assamese writer Manikuntala Bhattacharya’s popular novel of the same name and marks the feature film debut of National Award-winning film critic and acclaimed documentary director Utpal Borpujari.
‘Ishu’ offers a glimpse at the ancient system through the eyes of an innocent child, whose favourite aunt is branded as a witch by an evil village quack.
The film is complete and is expected to be screened soon. “However, despite its sensitive and serious backdrop, my film treats the subject in a way that it is suitable for viewing for children. In fact, the Central Board of film Certification (CBFC) has given it ‘U’ Certification without any cuts,” Borpujari said.
He believed that children’s films can effectively take up social issues, if handled sensitively.
The social evil of witch hunting has been a recurring problem in Assam and several incidents have been reported this year. CFSI chairman Mukesh Khanna said the film will deliver a message that social evils must be eradicated from the society. “Children are the future of our country and should always be motivated. Movies like ‘Ishu’ bring awakening in the society about the ill-effects of social evils and educate people about their harmful aspects on the society. CFSI will continue to make and promote such films,” he said.
In the film, the lead role is played by 10-year-old Kapil Garo, who was selected for the role after the director and his team interacted with nearly 300 kids across Assam. “Kapil has the required innocence and charm that I had visualised in ‘Ishu’ and being from a village himself, he blended naturally with the character,” Borpujari said.
The film’s dialogue, with emphasis on how the Rabha people living near Goalpara area speak Assamese with a particular accent, has been written by Borpujari in collaboration with award-winning theatre director Sukracharjya Rabha of the famed Badungduppa Kala Kendra of Rampur, Agia.
Several actors from the Badungduppa group, including Dhananjay Rabha and Basanta Rabha, have acted in pivotal roles in the film, which has been shot in pristine locations of several Rabha tribal vilages near Agia in Goalpara, located on the south bank of the mighty Brahmaputra.
It may be mentioned that NSD graduate and actress Pranami Bora conducted an 8-day workshop for the actors of the film at Badungduppa Kala Kendra premises, and Madan Rabha and Basanta Rabha were in charge of imparting accent training for the actors so that all of them could deliver their dialogues in the local accent.
The film also stars two-time National Award (special jury mention)-winning actor Bishnu Kharghoria and National Award-winning Manipuri actress Tonthoingambi Leishangthem Devi.
Veteran artistes Chetana Das and Pratibha Choudhury and other young actors like Monuj Borkotoky, Dipika Deka and Nibedita Bharali also feature in the film.
The film has been edited by the legendary A Sreekar Prasad, while its sound design is by Amrit Pritam Dutta and music is by Anurag Saikia, all National Award winners. The cinematographer is Sumon Dowerah, a veteran of many award-winning and mainstream films in Assamese, while other prominent crew members are JItendra Mishra (executive producer), Hengul Medhi (final sound mixing), Monjul Baruah (associate director), Homen Borah (production manager), Golok Saha (art director), Rani Dutta Baruah (costumes) and Achitabh (Shanku) Baruah (make up). The assistant directors of the film were Ghanshyam Kalita, Ronal Hussain and Monuj Borkotoky.