Saturday, December 19, 2015

A picture worth a thousand words and a film

The district of Morigaon in Assam is known for the place of occult, Mayang, the Pobitora wild life sanctuary, and the ferocity of its floods.

Ritu Raj Konwar, the Guwahati based special news photographer, was covering the floods in 2014, and clicked this photograph for "The Hindu". It showed a little boy carrying his goats to safety in a raft made of banana trunks, using the thin branch of a tree for steering through the flood waters.

While the Morigaon region sees frequent downpours, the 2014 floods were specially severe, with more than 2,00,000 people landing in relief camps. Even the rhinos of Kaziranga National Park were affected and several got electrocuted, and as in the picture alongside, the dead rhino had to be dragged away with the help of elephants. Unfortunately, the remote areas of the north-eastern states of India, do not get sufficient national media attention.

However, the photograph of the little boy carrying his goats, caught the attention of well known Malayalam film maker, Jayaraj, known for his art house films, as well as mainstream ones. He was inspired to make a movie about a little boy, and his grandfather, called "Ottaal", which he based on the Russian story by Chekhov, "Vanka".

Ottaal went on to win the "Golden Gateway of India Award" at the Mumbai Film Festival, 2015.
And Jayaraj recently went on to do what he was planning ever since he first saw the photograph. He tracked down the little boy, Ashadul Islam at his village Kuchani in Morigaon,Assam.

Jayaraj has announced he is going to look after little Ashadul's upkeep, health and education. Ashadul's parents are daily-wage labourers in a brick factory, and this help will go a long way for the family.

Jayaraj's visit also helped draw some attention to the small village of Kuchani, and its desperately poor people. Jayaraj's charity foundation has said it would look after the health needs of the village.

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