L. Rajendran’s Little Master is on how a young boy nurtures communal harmony in his neighbourhood

We live in times when grownups would do well to learn from the innocence and determination of children. This is the main theme that echoes throughout Little Master, a film written, directed and produced by L. Rajendran featuring Lal, Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, Madhupal and Master Shameen. The movie, which releases this Friday, tells the story of a boy who loses his father in the riots in Gujarat and returns home with his mother, only to be faced by new challenges in a society that is laced with the same communal mistrust he had just left behind.

Master Shameen plays Nandu, the titular ‘Little Master’, a young boy who goes about his life with the primary goal that his mother (portrayed by Lakshmi Gopalaswami) should not suffer over the loss of her husband (Madhupal). Helped along in his endeavours by the Physical Education master at his school (Lal), Nandu displays a passion and wisdom beyond his years as he talks, laughs, plays cricket and melts communal boundaries between his peers and elders alike.

The failure of society when it comes to understanding the needless hatred between different religious communities and how children in their ignorance of such boundaries often show us an easier path is the theme director L. Rajendran stresses upon most. “When a child does well in school, the other students should be happy about it and compete in a healthy manner. If they want to emulate what has been achieved by him or her, they should do it through perseverance, not force or intimidation. There is a lot we can learn from our children,” he says of his first outing as a director.

While the screenplay of Little Master relies mostly on young Nandu, he is ably assisted by Lal and Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, who are in their element as the stern mentor and the grieving yet determined mother respectively. K. Ramachandra Babu has handled the camera for the film, which features music by M.K. Arjunan and a background score by S.P Venkatesh.

L. Rajendran is an optimistic man. “Nowadays you hear so much being said about how young people go astray in their teens and early adulthood. Children should be a boon to their parents and society and hopefully we will have a new generation of little masters who will remember that when they watch the film.”

Films centered on children have dried up in recent years and Little Master may just be the boost the genre needs. While it is an entertainer that will keep children occupied with cricket matches and playground rivalry that are a part of childhood, parents will be kept from nodding off by the serious material that is the undercurrent of the movie and relevant to modern society. Seeing the conviction with which Nandu tries to reason with the children who stand against him, one is reminded not to overlook the importance of the youngsters who see far more than we give them credit for.