A short film shot in Kerala and Delhi, directed by a young film maker from Alappuzha, sends out a strong message to humanity.
Before we talk more about Anson A Athikalam - a third year economics student of St Stephen's College in New Delhi - or his film Upavahana, a journey of hope, you must watch it first.
At a time when migrants are dying in large numbers across the globe during their attempts to find a safe place to live in, discussions on issues plaguing refugees were common among Anson and his friends. It was during one such discussion that Anson decided something needed to be done to help the Rohingyas in crisis. Anson already had experience in film-making having made the short film 'Right Turn Ahead.' The next step was to create the script with his friends Albert Abraham and Bino B George.
The strength of his script made him more confident. A lot of people have made documentaries on Rohingya crisis, but no one has said it as a story of ants. “I shared the idea with friends and teachers who were extremely supportive. We also sent synopsis to Shashi Tharoor, MP, and CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury who were all encouraging,” said Anson.
The Supreme Court has told the Center that no Rohingya Muslim should be deported before the next hearing which is slated for Tuesday (November 21). Anson and Co. wanted their film to come out before that date hoping it creates some momentum and thought process among the public regarding the government stand.
“As a filmmaker I had to make compromises so that the film released early, but it would have been meaningless if it came out after the verdict,” said Anson.
The whole process of making the film was an enlightening process for the entire team. They visited a Rohingya camp in Delhi and witnessed their plight.
It was decided that the story will be narrated in Burmese so that it is a medium of protest for the Rohingyas, but only when they visited the refugees did they understood that “Burmese is as alien to them as Hindi is to a Malayali.” Thus, the Rohingya language was chosen to narrate the story and with the help of Ali, a member of the embattled community from Delhi, they translated and dubbed it.
When the film was in the editing phase, intelligence sleuths collected details of Anson and Arshad Muhammed, who was handling public relations for the film, from a teacher over phone. “This is proof how much our right to expression is being questioned,” said Anson.
The major part of the shooting was in Alappuzha, Anson's hometown. His friends in Kerala were oblivious of the refugee crisis and as the shooting began their awareness and enthusiasm soared.
“The difficult part during the shoot was finding ants and making them act, but they cooperated well,” chuckled Anson. It was difficult finding the ants as it was rainy season. The entire shoot involving ants was done in a short span of two-and-a-half hours as the restless ants would move away quickly.
The comments of media personality Arnab Goswami, Subramanian Swamy, MP, and the discussions over it in college made the team conclude that such a message should urgently reach the public. The entire 'Upavahana' team hopes that the court verdict will be in favor of the Rohingyas.