Actor-activist Nandita Das is happy. As she completes her tenure as Chairperson, Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI), on July 31 this year, she will step down with pride -- by adding another feather to her cap. She would have released ‘Gattu’, a CFSI film, commercially!
For, this is the first time in the 57 year history of the society that a children’s film gets a commercial release. Before 2012, CFSI released its films through District Education officers, private schools and NGOs. So far, CFSI has made 250 films.
With Nandita Das, Rajshri Productions also makes history by releasing this 75-minutes film today (July 27). The film was shot on a shoe-string budget. And this was precisely the reason Nandita had problems releasing it commercially.
Recalls Nandita, “I went to almost all mainstream distributors. They would politely turn it down saying it was ‘charming’ but had no stars.”
Then she met Rajat from Rajshri Productions on a flight. She says, “He expressed Rajshri’s desire to work with me. I offered him ‘Gattu.’ As Rajshri promotes clean, family cinema, this film fitted their bill and they were happy to release it commercially.” Later, Nandita signed a contract with the production house for releasing 50 CFSI films on You-Tube. “Some of them have to be restored and some are yet to be digitised.”
At a creative level, Nandita contributed to the film’s script, story and editing “till a point where it wouldn’t interfere in director Rajan Khosa’s vision.”
‘Gattu’ has many other firsts to its credit. It has all new-team that hails from a small old town of Roorkie called Sati Mohalla. The film has been shot completely on location, and Rajan Khosa, makes his directorial debut with it.
The protagonist is played by eight-year-old Mohammad Samad, a Government School student from Sati Mohalla. ‘Gattu’ is about an illiterate, yet street-smart orphan who works at a kabadi shop. His aspiration is to cut the proverbial black kite called ‘Kali.’ How he realises his dream is what the film is all about.
Says Delhi-born and bred Rajan, “We auditioned as many as 200 students from 12 schools in Roorkie and selected four from three different schools, including Samad. I shot the film in the Government Middle School campus. Samad knew the teachers and the students and led me through the alleys, making the process easy for me. We shot for 40 days during summer holidays.”
Interestingly, the kites in the film are flown by Rajan himself. He laughs, “I have been flying kites since my childhood days in old Delhi.” But capturing the flying kites on camera wasn’t easy. Rajan recalls, “We couldn’t use helicopters as the area doesn’t have a helipad. So, my camera crew fitted a 350 CC engine to a para-glider, fillted the camera on it and shot those scenes.”
The film has already won several awards, special mentions, Best film and Best Actor awards at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Los Angeles Indian Film Festival and film festivals at New York, respectively.