Chuskit, a children’s film directed by Bangalore-based documentary filmmaker Priya Ramasubban, played to a packed hall at the Dharamshala film festival on November 2. The film, inspired by a true story, is at heart a tale about a girl wanting to go to school.
This is Priya’s debut feature and tells the story of a young Ladakhi girl whose only dream is to one day be able to go to school. Set in the fictional village of Skitpachan, the girl’s dream comes to a halt after an accident renders her paraplegic. Her spirit doesn’t fade, however.
Despite the daily obstacle of her stubborn grandfather Dorje, she persists with her goal. Chuskit has to battle on two fronts — her disability and her grandfather — and does so with aplomb.
On the one hand, Chuskit’s family (which includes her parents and an older brother) are determined not to crush her spirit. On the other, they respect the old man.
Priya Ramasubban is an experienced director, one with many talents. She has written, directed and produced many shows for National Geographic, The History Channel and Discovery and even some international broadcasters. The environment of Ladakh may have been challenging for her and her crew, but the story inspired her to make the film as best she could.
The film is charming and rewarding. It’s a story told well and with extreme care. The actors provide the spark and the script is a simple but good narrative with no heavy dialogues.
Priya’s sister Vidhya moved to Ladakh and co-founded the People’s Action Group for Inclusion and Rights (PAGIR) with activist Mohammad Iqbal. PAGIR works to aid differently abled children in living their lives to the fullest. A friend of Priya’s, Sujatha Padmanabhan, wrote the book Chuskit Goes to School, which provided the initial catalyst for the film. The book was inspired by the story of Sonam Spalzes, who has cerebral palsy.
Priya Ramasubban stayed true to the real-life story but fictionalized some of the elements. The film was shot entirely in Shakti and Phey villages of Ladakh and mostly consisted of local artistes. The director said the process of making the film wasn’t easy. It took her five years to shoot the film. But the lack of funds and personal tragedies did not deter her from wanting to tell the story.
Priya wants this film to reach as many people as possible, but she also realizes that such a film is hard to get out in cinemas. For now, she has taken the film festival route, winning many awards along the way. She hopes to inspire many differently abled children to go to school and live their lives to the fullest.