Pistulya depicts deprivation, undying urge for better life

Pune: In what is seen as a remarkable achievement for young director Nagraj Manjule, a city-based mass communication student has taken everybody by surprise by bagging the recently announced National Film award for the best debut non-feature film produced and directed by him, `Pistulya`, depicting the life of a deprived boy whose quest `for learning defies social odds.

The 15 minute and 11 seconds long film which was shot by Nagraj in just two days with a cast drawn from his own group undergoing the communication course stands out for its brevity and sequences portraying a stark reality of an underprivileged life, presented with subtleties of rural India.

"It was perhaps easy for me to identify with the characters shown in the film, because I myself come from the Vadar community (those who hammer and break stone slabs) to which the protagonist—Pistulya–belongs..," the award winning film maker said in a talk with PTI here.

Pistulya , the protagonist of the story whose father is dead and mother the sole earning member of the family takes the route to easy money indulging in petty thefts as he plays into the hands of the community goons who are traditionally associated with anti-social behaviour.

But as he goes about stealing in the village, a glimpse of a school with the students of his age reciting prayer in the assembly, takes him on a different plane. As he watches the boys and girls in school uniform from a distance, and through a wire-meshed compound, Pistulya undergoes an inner churning with visions of a better life.

But interestingly, the boy for whom the path of vice is seen as a natural choice emanating from the community`s way of life, thinks of his younger sister `Lali` when the thought of education first comes to his mind.

"He appears to be have resigned to his own fate and the wayward life to which he was condemned in the social set up.

However, he has a thought for his sister whom he sees as the ideal candidate for pursuing the path of learning. And to make a beginning to support her in his own way, he first steals a school uniform of a girl student..", said Nagraj explaining salient features of the award winning short film, screened for media persons.

The film shows the boy fleeing after stealing the school uniform and ends up as Pistulya collapses as he runs his heart out and falls along the village road in exasperation.

"It certainly was a challenge to capture ethos of a community living the life of tramps and social stigma and projecting a dormant desire for reform, encapsulating the theme in just 15 minutes. My own life experiences helped me to achieve the effect," said Nagraj who had actually produced `Pistulya` as a project film as part of his mass communication course conducted by Pune university.

The national film award citation for `Pistulya` as the best debut non-feature film of director which won the `Rajat Kamal`, states "It is a delightful exposition of the poignant life of a poverty stricken child who nurtures a dream of embracing the source of learning through education. With simplicity and fluency, the director (Nagraj) portrays the spirit of the child through fine performances."

Buoyed by the appreciation at the highest level, Nagraj now has plans to convert this 15 minute work into a full fledged feature film to send across a powerful social message which he thinks would be relevant to many deprived and stigmatised communities in the country.