A Chat With Ashvin Kumar...
Director Ashvin Kumar had already garnered notable success with his first short The Road To Ladakh, a surreal road movie starring Irrfan Khan (The Warrior). His second short Little Terrorist has accumulated a fair few awards on the festival circuit. This 10 minute film is a simple message of hope, and one that might win Kumar his biggest prize yet…
It is something of a fairytale. In November 2003 Director Ashvin Kumar put out a crew call on the internet UK filmmakers bulletin ShootingPeople.org, saying his short film - Little Terrorist - will be shot in India… and by the way, there is no money to cover fees or travel costs! Luckily, Kumar gets a few adventurous takers.
Last Tuesday, Kumar received a call from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to say that the film had been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Live Action Short Film category. “WOOOOO-HOOOO!!! I’m totally floored!!!” beams Kumar, “I feel vindicated and grateful to all the people who helped me get here. It’s a fabulous honour for what is only my second film.”
Little Terrorist really shouldn’t have made it off the page, its making reads like a Coen Brothers’ script with one damn thing happening after the next. Crew became ill; actors had to dodge stampeding cows and a freak fire almost destroyed the film stock! Yet Kumar’s tale of what happens to a Pakistani Muslim boy when he accidentally crosses the landmine-riddled Pakistani-Indian border, made it into the can in less than four months. It’s a poignant and visually beautiful film, which has picked up a clutch of gongs, including first prize in the UIP Prix Ghent 2004 and Best Short Film at the Montreal Film Festival.
Clearly, Little Terrorist has struck a chord with judges and audiences alike and Kumar points out why: “It puts a basic humanity on display and reiterates the need to cross borders. And it does it simply”, he explains, “A single village with its people divided by a barbed wire, and now, pointing nuclear missiles at each other, are the realities seen through the innocent eyes of a child. On a story level it’s the ‘adventures’ of a kid who ventures into the unknown and touches the people he comes into contact with.”
The next few weeks will probably feel like an eternity as Kumar prepares for what could be a stratospheric moment in his film career. Til then it’s business as usual. He’s in India again trying hard to raise the finance for his first feature Forest, a thriller set in the Indian jungle and hopes that the nomination will see the big industry bods take notice and maybe help push things along a little. But a month from now Kumar will head to the legendary Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, walk up that red carpet and experience firsthand the biggest night in cinema. “I wouldn't miss it for the world,” he smiles, “Though, should we win, I really don't know that I would want to go up and say something in front of all those stars!”
When you listen to Kumar talk about his work, you can’t help but admire his creativity, tenacity and absolute belief in himself as a filmmaker. He even found time to make the inspiring Adventures In Shorts, a three hour DVD that documents his experiences from film school to Hollywood, features his two shorts and is an absolute must for any aspiring filmmaker. Whatever the outcome for Kumar on Oscar night, he’s only just getting started…