Former journalist and film critic turned filmmaker Utpal Borpujari’s debut feature film, ‘Ishu‘ (Assamese, 91 minutes, 2017), won the Best Feature Film award in the Regional Language category at the 65th National Film Awards.

The awards and honours were declared by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I & B). ‘Ishu‘ is produced by Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI). It is an adaptation of Manikuntala Bhattacharjya’s novel of the same name.

Ishu‘ boldly portrays the inhumane practice of witch hunting that is still prevalent in rural parts of India. The film is narrated from the perspective of a child whose aunt is tagged as a “witch” by the villagers. Starring Kapil Garo as the young male actor, the film’s ensemble cast also includes National Award-winning Bishnu Kharghoria and Tonthoingambi Leishangthem Devi, and veteran actors like Chetana Das and Pratibha Choudhury.

Utpal added, “I believed that ‘Ishu‘ could be a unique way to look at the problem of witch hunting. The whole issue was being observed from the perspective of a small child. Usually, it’s very easy to talk about such serious problems from an adult’s point of view. When you look at the same subject from a child’s perspective, you get a new outlook. Children are pure souls. That is how I got attracted to the story.”

The film did rounds of several film festivals across the country, winning awards and the hearts of the critics and the audiences alike. Furthermore, it was also screened at Canada Kids Film Festival (Toronto), International Children’s Film Festival Bangladesh (Dhaka, International Competition), Smile International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFFCY, New Delhi), Eye Asian Film Festival Mumbai, International Guwahati Film Festival (organised by Guwahati Cine Club), Assam International Rural Film Festival, Meleng Phesual (Jorhat), and Toulouse Indian Film Festival, France, among many others.

It was a proud moment for Assam as Rima Das‘ Assamese film ‘Village Rockstars‘ also won the National Award for the Best Feature film, after nearly three decades.


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