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India has a mine full of stories: Ashvin

Ashvin Kumar feels good stories are smothered under umbrella of masala films.
By Press Trust of India | PTI, Mumbai
UPDATED ON FEB 09, 2005 08:52 PM IST

Ashvin Kumar, whose film Little Terrorist has been nominated for the Oscars in the short film category, today said there were many stories to be told but most of them are smothered under the monopolistic umbrella of masala films.

"India is like a mine full of stories, but the real stories all get lost in the mire of Bollywood masala," Ashvin, who was on a visit to the city told reporters here.

"I am not against Bollywood masala, in fact I myself have never ruled out the option of making a film that fell into the genre of a musical, but India has still so many stories to offer and films that could be made about it," he said.

"The forest has always intrigued me. There is so much of engima that surrounds the Indian forest and I was keen to capture this mystery, to make people appreciate the forest and treasure our natural resources. However, the slow deforestation has pained me and I have decided to capture it," Ashvin, who will be shooting it in Kumaon, said.

"I do not want to make a serious-serious kind of film on the forest, who would want to watch it? But it will be packaged in the form of a thriller and slipped with messages on the environment and its degradation," he said.

On his film The Little Terrorist, he said the story was inspired by a real life incident. "I have always wanted to make a story on the India-Pakistan tension and what better way to tell the story than through the eyes of a child."

Little Terrorist, narrates a simple story of a 10-year- old Jamal from Pakistan who strays into India to retrieve his ball. But his innocent act gets him being dubbed as a terrorist. A Hindu school teacher takes the child home and shelters him from Indian soldiers hunting out for the `little terrorist'.

"The story has layers and layers to it, it encapsules the entire gamut of the tension and the religious taboos as well as the dominating spirit of love and humanity in the 15 minutes of narration", Ashvin said.

"The film is timeless and will hold relevance anywhere and who is not touched by a story of an endearing relationship between an old man and a child and the tentative relationship that develops".

"I kept the entry low key because I was not sure about the fate of the film. I did not believe in going and telling the media look I have entered the film at the Oscar", Ashvin said though he admits that a single nomination has transformed life for him.

"From languishing for years in obscurity I have been pushed into the limelight in just 48 hours after the nomination", he adds in a lighter vein.

On why he chose the short film format, he said because, "I wanted to establish myself as an international director. and I wanted to move into full length feature film after establishing myself in the short film category. From now on I plan to make only feature films", Ashvin who earlier directed a 48 minute short film Road to Ladakh.

"I was surprised by the response for each job there were at least 25 applications and that too not from just amateurs but professionals, that is how I got my team", Ashvin, the son of Delhi-based fashion designer Ritu Kumar said.

On the casting of his film, Ashvin narated an interesting account about the protagonist Jamal, portrayed by child actor Salim.

"Interestingly, Salim himself has been a case of a lost-and-found child. He was lost when he was seven and reunited with his parent after two and half years. I traced him to the Salaam Balak trust in Delhi."

"I auditioned several children from the trust, but in workshop I knew I had found Jamal or that Salim had chosen the film for himself."

"I chose Salim, because I wanted a child who had seen life and not one of those public school kind of children. But for the role of the niece I chose the head girl of a city school", said Ashvin, who is also planning to make a full length feature film on Road to Ladakh.

"Though the response to the shorter version was bland, I think story was great and hence I now plan to make it into a full length feature film", Ashvin, who is also currently reading a Bengali novel with aspirations to make a film on Bengal behind his mind, said.

On whether lobbying for the Oscar was one of his options, he said, "this is the most democratic category and hence lobbying does not really help, moreover I cannot compete with publicity of films like Aviator, nor do I want to".

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