Here's a look at ‘The Lotus Pond', the only film from Hyderabad which will compete in the 17th International Children's Film Festival of India next week. Sangeetha Devi Dundoo gets the details
One unusual day, at a usual class in school, two 10-year-old boys learn about a mythical lotus pond that's nestled in the Himalayas. Curious by what they hear from their teacher, they set out to explore the pond at a height of 14,000 ft with the help of a village boy. The journey takes them through villages where they befriend different tribes, learn about cultures, indulge in adventure, brave snowfalls and telling weather conditions. Do they find the lotus pond? Find out on November 17 when the film, The Lotus Pond, is screened at Prasad's as part of the 17th International Children's Film Festival of India (ICFFI).
The Lotus Pond is the lone film from Hyderabad to be screened at the festival in the competition segment, directed by A.L. Nitin Kumar (who spearheads Vihari travelogue series on MAA TV) and P.G. Vinda (cinematographer for Ashta Chamma and Vinayukudu). Nitin Kumar, whose Vihari has crossed the seven-year mark on MAA TV, hit upon the idea of making a children's film during a trip to Switzerland. “We happened to meet a few tourists whose only impression of India was through films like Salaam Bombay and The Slumdog Millionaire. What was more shocking was a fellow traveller from AP acknowledging that India, to a large extent, remains as shown in those films. I wanted to make a feel-good film to show the beautiful side of India. I didn't want parents to watch this film and feel ‘thank God my child is not in such a situation',” he says.
He discovered that making a children's film is a different ball game from that of a travelogue. “We researched for one and a half year for the locales. The story is set in Patlikhul off Manali and we shot in many areas, from 10,000 to 14,000 ft above sea level,” he says. Nitin's own interest in trekking came in handy.
Director Puri Jagannadh's son Akash was chosen to play one of the two principal characters and the team auditioned school children for the second boy's role. “A lot of children were aping popular actors. We wanted someone who would have a style of his own and finally selected Rohit Ranka from Geetanjali School. I was worried if these boys would be able to scale up the mountains. But to our surprise, they were strong and were game to do some trekking,” recalls Nitin. The 100-member crew set up makeshift tents at high altitudes and in certain places, had to use oxygen cylinders.
With the emphasis on story and locales, the makers didn't want any visual effects. Nitin hopes that the film will win an award in the festival. “That will help a small film like ours get a commercial release in city multiplexes,” he says. He is already chalking out details for his second children's film and wants to make one film for children a year. “I want to change the notion that the Telugu industry does not have courage to make children's films,” he concludes.