The film, Shimul Palash Katha, was shot on iPhone over 11 days in end November, with four spent in the Sunderbans
When a film on trafficking that uses sign language for communication among the main protagonists failed to find financiers, the director fell back on an unusual resource— his school alumni. Now Shimul Palash Katha is ready for release, backed by Pointers Business Forum (PBF), comprising a group of entrepreneurs who have passed out of South Point School.
“The group was floated in the middle of 2020 with 250-plus members in business or independent professions, with the aim of helping each other out. Our presence so far is only on social media,” said Atin Dutta, one of the coordinators of the group.
Som Mukherjee of the Madhyamik 1987 batch, who has acted in the film, brought word of the filmmaker Ashrujit Nandi’s predicament to the forum. “Four cast members, the script writer and the assistant cameraman are from our school too. We added Ashrujit to the forum’s WhatsApp group, floating units of Rs 15,000. He needed to raise Rs 12 lakh. Seventeen of us picked up stakes in the film,” said Dutta. The major backers, buying multiple units, were Kaushik Dasgupta, based in Australia, and Suranjan Som of England, neither of whom knew Ashrujit.
“The market was down with the pandemic last year. Moreover, no one was ready to finance a film where a significant portion would have sign language rather than words. My crowdfunding efforts too came a cropper. The forum was godsent,” said Ashrujit, of the class of Madhyamik 2000.
The lead couple in the film, Shimul and Palash, played by Koushani Mukherjee and Pushan Dasgupta, are deaf-mute. The activist Katha, who helps reunite them, also speaks to them using sign language.
Once the money was raised, workshops were held for all three. “It was conducted by a trainer in Indian sign language, with a deaf-mute person helping them out,” said Ashrujit.
The story is partly based on a real life incident. “In 2014-15, I was working for an NGO and came across this deaf-mute girl from the Sunderbans whose poverty-stricken father had put her on a Calcutta-bound train, thinking he would not be able to marry her off. She had got trafficked before she was rescued by the NGO,” he said. This is how the film starts before Palash sets off for the city to look for his lady love, gone missing from the village.
Condition of many of the families in the Sunderbans villages has worsened after migrant labourers returned jobless, he pointed out. There is also a trafficking syndicate that exists which lures girls to other cities with false promises of jobs.
The film was shot on iPhone over 11 days in end November, with four spent in the Sunderbans. “We took some local jatra artistes who played the families of the lead pair. A workshop was held for them too.”
The most part was shot in Narendrapur village in Raidighi. “It was a Covid-free zone. Since we were travelling from outside we took Covid detection tests before going and hired a house to stay by ourselves,” said the Ganguly Bagan resident, who teaches in a government school in Naktala.
The 91-minute film is now being sent to festivals. It won its first bunch of awards at a film festival in Santiniketan. It was also screened at a PBF meet last Thursday.
Ashrujit hopes to debut the film on a web platform. “We will help him in marketing the film as well. If there is a profit, we will all get a share based on the number of units we invested in,” said Dutta, of the class of 1982 Madhyamik.