Mumbai: An independent filmmaker has approached President Pratibha Patil with a humble request.
To allow two children from a pre-Aryan community in Himachal Pradesh speaking a near-extinct language to accompany him on stage to receive his third National Award from her next month.
Amlan Datta, recipient of the National Film Awards in 2007 and 2009, has been chosen for a Rajat Kamal award this year (Best Ethnographic/ Anthropological Film) for his documentary BOM aka "One day ahead of Democracy".
"My film is based on a remote mountain village called Malana in Himachal Pradesh inhabited by a pre-Aryan community speaking a near-extinct language `Kanashi` presumably that of the mythical Rakshashas," he says.
According to Datta, Rajkumari, 9, and Rajesh, 7, are not only characters of his film but represent the hope and aspiration of the community.
"This gift from you (allowing the children to accompany him on stage) would not only boost the morale of this ancient community in its process of social integration but also remain as an exemplary and unprecedented act of humanity from the highest authority of the state," Datta wrote in a letter to Patil yesterday.
"In the prelude of the film it was stated that this film is to be taken to the President. A film about `democracy` that speaks about the discontent of the citizen of India must reach you, the President of the world`s largest democracy," the letter said.
Datta, who served as a jury member for the 58th National Film Awards last year, had approached the Directorate of Film Festivals with his request but was told that it cannot recommend his plea to the President as it is not in its protocol.
"I was first told that it was unclear as to who would confer the awards. A few days back I was informed that the President herself will give away the awards on May 3. "So, I decided to write to the President and request her to allow me to take the two kids on stage when I receive the award from her. I am hopeful that the President will keep my request and create a small provision in the protocol for this humanitarian act," the Kolkata-based filmmaker told reporters.
"One day ahead of Democracy", a 117 minute film in Hindi, English and Kanashi with sub-titles in English, is a real life story of transition; an ancient civilization being invaded and obliterated by the modern democracy. Narrated in an epic structure, it is a visual essay from the edge of the world with a universal message of trust, peace and eternal unity.
"Protagonist Hemraj has lost his home and mother. His wife Kekti was implicated and later convicted for trafficking hashish. Kekti`s story itself exposes how the drug mafia works hand in glove with the police and how inefficient the judiciary is. Hemraj being mentally ill and in Kekti`s absence, there was nobody to take care of their children Rajesh and Rajkumari.
"Kekti remained a character in absentia. Her spine chilling telephonic conversation that revealed the truth of her arrest stands as a testimony of her plight. In the court of law she was not allowed to speak. Now this film shall tell her story to the nation. And it has to win hearts so that in this democracy she can at least expect to get a fair re-trial," Datta says.
According to him, everything in this film is real; there`s no staging, no enactment, no re-creation.
He has adopted Rajkumari and Rajesh and has been looking after their education and well-being.
"Rajkumari is not just the face of the film but metaphorically the princess of Malana is also the hope of the community," he says.