GUWAHATI, Aug 6 - Ishu, the newest production of Children�s Film Society, India (CFSI), is a feature film that will instantly take the viewer to the world of a kid whose innocent and happy-go-lucky world turns topsy-turvy thanks to the superstitious society of adults around him.
Set in a remote tribal Rabha village in lower Assam area bordering Meghalaya�s Garo Hills, this Assamese film is based on noted Assamese writer Manikuntala Bhattacharjya�s popular novel Ishu, and marks the feature film debut of award-winning film critic and documentary director Utpal Borpujari.
The film takes a look at the inhuman practice of �witch hunting� that is prevalent in parts of Assam as well as some other parts of India, through the eyes of an innocent child whose favourite aunt is branded a �witch� by the evil village bej (quack), who conspires with another aunt to do so.
Treated like a fairy tale albeit set in today�s times, Ishu is a sensitive take on how such incidents impact a child psychologically, with the narrative taking the viewer along protagonist Ishu�s quest to find his aunt who goes missing after being assaulted by the villagers at the instigation of the villainous quack.
The social evil of �witch hunting� has been a recurring problem in Assam, so much so that the State Assembly unanimously passed the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill 2015, following years of sustained campaign by civil society organisations and an intervention by the Gauhati High Court. The Bill, however, is yet to become a law.
Several incidents of witch hunting have been reported in Assam during this year too, while according to data placed in the State Assembly, 93 cases of witch hunting were reported and 77 persons, including 35 women, were killed during 2010-2015.
�However, despite its sensitive and serious backdrop, my film treats the subject in a way that is suitable for viewing by children. In fact, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has given it U certification without any cuts,� says Borpujari, who believes that children�s films can effectively take up social issues if handled sensitively.
CFSI Chairman Mukesh Khanna said this movie will give a clear message to the people that social evils are bad and must be eradicated from society. �Children are the future of our country and should always be motivated. By practising social evils like �witch hunting�, we are making circumstances worse for children and disturb their psychology. This will have an adverse effect on the children and will not help them in their career and overall development,� he said.
�Movies like Ishu bring awakening in society about the ill-effects of social evils and educate people about their harmful aspects on society. CFSI will continue to make and promote such films whose themes are aimed at bringing about transformation in society for the benefit of mankind, particularly children,� Khanna added.
Incidentally, the script of Ishu was chosen as the only Asian entry into the 2012 Junior Co-Production Market of Cinekid International Film Festival, Amsterdam.
In the film, the lead role is played by 10-year-old Kapil Garo, who hails from Sonapur area near Guwahati. Kapil, who has given a performance with maturity much beyond his tender age, was selected for the role after the director and his team interacted with nearly 300 kids across Assam.
The film also stars two-time National Award (Special Jury Mention)-winning actor Bishnu Kharghoria and National Award-winning Manipuri actress Tonthoingambi Leishangthem Devi, along with veterans like Chetana Das and Pratibha Choudhury and younger actors like Monuj Borkotoky, Dipika Deka and Nibedita Bharali.