At KC College, a group of students is well-schooled in cannabis. They know its scientific name (Cannabis Sativa), they know how it is grown (as a cash crop), they know its importance to the local economy and the debate around its trade and consumption.
Distilled and packaged as a
29-minute documentary film, this group's study of the drug has now won them the first prize at a student film festival.
The department of mass media at KC College has an annual filmmaking festival - Roll.Take.Turn - which features films covering various contemporary issues.
The group of 10 students who won the first prize for their film, Goonj worked over a six-month period, digging deep into the fascinating, multi-faceted and charged nature of the debate surrounding a simple weed.
As part of their third year Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM) programme, students are required to choose a particular subject in a particular state, a search that ended with exploring the dynamics of cannabis in Himachal.
The students will screen the film in other cities in the coming months and also enter it for various film festivals.
"Drugs have always been shown in bad light but we wanted to show a plant that has a different side to it as well," said Adhiraj Bose, 21, the film's director and editor. "The cannabis plant has become synonymous with charas, but the other aspects aren't considered. We tried to bring in different points of view."
The film features a voice-over segment by Naseeruddin Shah and a short speech by Himachal Pradesh chief minister.
Out of the nine films screened at the festival, Goonj won the first prize, Lha the second and Dardpora the third.
While Lha focused on the Tibetan issue and refugees living in India, Dardpora looked at a village near the Pakistan border known as the Village of Widows. Other films dealt with a palette of issues, including cracker production at Sivakasi, the African community of Gujarat and Mumbai's mill workers.
"It was the most honest filmmaking we have seen in a long time," said Taher Mithaiwalla, one of the judges. "It has raised the bar for next year."
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