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Interview Hindi

Pustak is 15-year-old Swadhaa Singh's passion project

The film, which was screened at LIFFT India Filmotsav on Sunday (9 December), revolves around a village boy who travels to Lucknow to retrieve his school book.

Suparna Thombare

At just 14, Lucknow-based Swadhaa R Singh decided to take on the huge mantle of directing a two-hour film. She wrote the script of Pustak and shot the film last year during her summer vacations.

Interestingly her mother, Neelam R Singh, also made her directorial debut this year. Her film Tarpan — The Salvation was screened at Jagran Film Festival in Mumbai earlier this year and at LIFFT India Filmotsav on Monday.

Neelam has been the guiding light for her teenage daughter and was present at the screening of her film.

"My father pressurised me into becoming a doctor, but I was always interested in filmmaking. I ended up getting married and becoming a housewife. I didn't want the same thing to happen to my daughter. And I also became a filmmaker at this stage of my life," says Neelam, when we spoke to her after the film's screening.

Unfortunately, Swadhaa couldn't make it to LIFFT India because of her ongoing pre-board exams. She is now 15.

The day we stop mentioning our caste, many of our problems will be solved: Tarpan director Neelam Singh

When we got on a call with her Swadhaa, she said that the film wouldn't have been made without the support of her mother.

"My mother is the single most greatest person ever. She supported me from day one. I approached my mother as soon as I thought of it. Only at that time it was just a crazy idea that I had. Thinking about making a movie at age 14 was unheard of. She was happy and a little touched that I came to her with this idea," says Swadhaa, adding, "She taught me almost everything that I know about films today."  

Swadhaa said that her mother encouraged her despite the fact that she was entering a crucial academic year.

"When we had the script ready my tenth boards year had begun and she was making her own debut film, yet she still gathered up a team, kept communicating with me about what I could improve upon and gave me other ideas about it. Without her I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it. Both my parents have helped me make this film and I’m very grateful to them," she says.

Set in Uttar Pradesh, Pustak revolves around a village boy who travels to Lucknow to find his book. It is the only book in his tiny school and the fear of punishment from his strict teacher drives him to go to any lengths to retrieve it.

Pustak has an innocence that only a young mind could have. And even though it's naive in parts, the film touches you.

Swadhaa's storytelling skills cannot be missed.

While Swadhaa is too young to join a film school, she says that she has learned a lot from her mother when it comes to the technical skills.

"It was very overwhelming at first. The first two days of the shoot I had my mother right beside me to guide me through it. I kept observing her and how she told the people what to do," days Swadhaa.

"She also gave me pointers before the shoot about what to do and how I should go about it. I also had a team of wonderful people who were just so tolerant and kind that it was hard to be scared or lost."

The idea for the film came from Swadhaa's observations when she visited UP's villages with her family and saw the conditions under which children study.

"We went to visit some villages with my mother’s side of the family and I saw the poor conditions of the schools and children over there."

"Most of them were paid to attend school. Some did not have books to study with. And that made me realise the differences in our society. People know about it, but to see it first hand made me write about it. So that people get more aware about how serious this is," said Swadhaa.

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