In December last, a group of twenty-something college students decided to pack their bags and travel 1,747km to Nandigram. They spent Rs50,000 and two months in search of – what they like to call – a discovery. For these students, Nandigram signified a lot more than just a protest beamed on news channels; it was an indigenous revolution…live. A revolution that they believed should be immortalised in history text books.
“We’ve documented it,” says Bhav Dhulia, whose 30-minute short film Aamar Nadigram, focused on violence in the village and the plight of the voiceless farmers. “They ventured into forbidden places, even though they were warned by the locals,” says Manjula Srinivas, a teacher and BMM coordinator at KC College.
Nikita Banerjee, 22, and her crew visited a dilapidated BMC school in Mumbai. They spent five months on campus with young students who were the lead protagonists in their short film. Their camera tracked the journey of one man as he set up a toy library for underprivileged children. “Our efforts were widely appreciated. An official from the state government wanted to show it to his staff, so that they could be similarly inspired,” says Banerjee, a student of Sophia College.
Social films are popular, and the fertile canvas of the film festival is bearing witness to the trend. Mahek Sanghavi, chairperson of the inaugural Sixteen:nine International Film Festival, which kicked off on Monday at Usha Pravin College of Management at Vile-Parle, has received a number of film entries that deal with topics ranging from global warming to Aids awareness. “These films make people think. The audience is usually left shaken after watching them,” Sanghavi said. Only students and amateurs are allowed to participate in the festival.
With a production budget ranging from anywhere between Rs50,000 and Rs80,000 you might wonder where does all the money from. “We managed to get sponsors for our films. Multinationals like Indian Oil came forward to support our film,” says Shikha Pandey, director, Dus Nau Aath…Kar Lo Baat, a film on a children’s distress helpline.
For some, money does not matter when the film is larger than life. “We went with an aim to expose the effect of propaganda on the people of Gujarat,” says Radhika Agarwal, producer of the film Kem Cho Gujarat?
If there’s anything this youth trend signals is that in this day and age the message of a film counts for a lot more than star power and box office lure. Film for change…now that would be revolutionary.