Ten years since its Oscar nomination, Little Terrorist, directed by Ashvin Kumar, is more relevant today than ever before.
(Scroll down for the link to view the film)
Based on a real-life incident in 2003, the 15-minute short film follows the story of a Pakistani boy, Jamal, who crosses over the Indian border endeavouring to get back his cricket ball. Since its release in 2004, Little Terrorist has entered over 250 film festivals, winning awards in more than 30 of them, notably an Academy Award nomination, Best Film at the Manhattan Film Festival, Montreal Film Festival and Satyajit Ray Award for Best Short Film.
It became the first Indian short film to get a theatrical release in the country, which lit the short film revolution in India way back in 2005. Says the director, “The Gurdaspur attack, the arrest of Mohameed Naved and escalation of hostilities on the LOC are but recent expressions of a lack of imagination on both sides. The justification for borders and the grand narratives of great nations have clearly failed. While real people live real lives on either side of these fences, barbed wire cuts the landscape of their humanity, culture, civilisation, divides their children from their ancestors and, indeed, stemies the very human touch that is the only real solution to this any such conflict. I don’t know which filmmaker would say this, but it’s almost a matter of deep regret and dismay that this film has aged so well. For it feels far more relevant today, a whole decade later. Its message of hope, my wide-eyed idealism seem quite naive given the hawkish, illiberal, imperialist impulses that characterise public life today.”
Salim (Julfuqur) Ali, who plays Jamal, was separated from his family at the age of seven. He was found under a flyover, having spent a few days without food, by the Salaam Baalak Trust. Based on fragments of information provided by him, his family was found in a New Delhi slum, ending a three-year search. Even so, Salim choose to continue living at the Trust, where he was auditioned for the role of Jamal. Salim also bagged a role in Ashvin’s feature thriller The Forest. Now part of a professional dancer and theater troupe, Salim works in New Delhi.
The crew was assembled from “Shooting People” before such online resources became popular. They flew in at their own cost to shoot in a guerrilla production with a shoestring budget haunted by mishaps.
Jamal, a 12-year-old Muslim Pakistani boy mistakenly crosses the border between India and Pakistan, finding an unusual ally in a Hindu Brahmin, Bhola. Indian soldiers descend on Bhola’s village searching for the ‘terrorist’ who crossed over. His niece, Rani, insists they can’t let a Muslim into their Hindu home. With Bhola and Rani grappling with the consequences of harbouring a Pakistani and their deep-set prejudice against Muslims, Jamal’s only hope is the humanity shared by a people separated by artificial boundaries a long time ago.
In early 2003, a twelve-year-old Pakistani boy crossed the Indo-Pak border by mistake. Indian Prime Minister Atal Bhihari Vajpaee, amidst PR fanfare, restored the boy to his family in Pakistan, kicking off the thaw in tensions between these two nuclear countries who came so close to war less than a year earlier.
To watch the 15-minute film on August 14 and 15, free exclusively for audiences in Pakistan and India, click here: