Cinema in Retrospect: India’s Oscar nominated short film – Little Terrorist

Short films are still an unfamiliar territory in India – The land of masala entertainers with song and dance galore.

Many would echo that short films would be easy to direct as they are to the point and without a lot of Bollywood conventionalism. But on the flip side, it is an arduous task to convey your message in the most precise manner in that short duration.

One clear example of good short film making is ‘Little Terrorist’; an Indian film of 2004 that was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Live Short Film Category. Unfortunately, the film did not receive half of the Indian fanfare that the Aamir Khan starrer ‘Lagaan’ received when it made it to the Oscars in 2002.

A still from Little Terrorist

A still from Little Terrorist

Warning: Contains Spoilers

Little Terrorist is a 15 minute short poignant tale about a muslim boy named Jamal from Pakistan. While playing cricket near the Indo-Pak border, he unintentionally enters the Indian border to fetch his cricket ball. When Indian border officers fire bullets at him assuming him to be a terrorist, Jamal escapes in a nearby Indian village and takes shelter with a Hindu villager, Bhola and his niece, Rani who are against Muslims. Rest of the story forms around how he is treated in an unknown land and if ever he makes it back to his home?

Directed by Ashvin Kumar, the film is loosely based on a real life incident where a Pakistani boy mistakenly entered the Indian territory. He was sent back to his family in Pakistan under the orders of Shree Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then Prime Minister of India.

Little terrorist is moving, enlightening and engaging all at the same time – a feat not easy to accomplish. The film boasted of brilliant performances from its lead actors which is a great achievement since they were all ordinary inexperienced individuals. Zulfuqar Ali played Jamal, an actual slum dweller while Bhola (Sushil Sharma) was a clerk in Delhi. Bhola’s niece, Rani played by Megnaa Mehtaa was a 12th standard student while filming. Apart from its actors, the authenticity of the film is maintained all through with live in locations, local dialect and some inspiring cinematography.

pagetop-bhola-jamal-cycle - Little Terrorist

A still from Little Terrorist

The film manages to send across a strong message about humanity and love which is far from being bound by fences and borders. It conveys that people on this side of the boundary are no different from those on the other. And above all, it communicates that hatred is an over hyped etymology restricted to a handful of extremists. Overall people are peace-loving and believe in hope and understanding.

Little terrorist and such films need to be encouraged, as much as if not more than mainstream cinema in India. As a payback, these films will encourage independent film-makers to venture into the unfamiliar territory of short film making. For all you know, these films if not path breaking will at least speak one’s mind.

For now, Go and watch this little gem. It’s just 15 minutes of your time. But those 15 minutes will bring a smile on your face, Most Definitely!

(Note: I do not own the pictures displayed in this post. They have been added for pictorial representation sake. All text can get boring to read sometimes)


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Edwina D'souza

Read write watch, 2 left hands and feet, recluse, gazer and occasionally suffer from wanderlust syndrome!!

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