October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
'My father's name is Gandhiji'. That's the name of a Bengali film releasing today in Kolkata, about what the father of the nation comes to mean to a Kolkata urchin who doesn't know who his own father is.
'Baabar Naam Gandhiji' film stars a boy from a real life slum and not an actor. Parambrata of Kahani fame plays an NGO who tries to get the urchin to school.
"My name is Kencho Das Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi," shouts the urchin in glee. Abandoned at birth, living off his wits on the streets of Kolkata, Kencho is stumped when asked for his father's name. He is then shown a 500 rupee note with Mahatma Gandhi's portrait on it and told, that's your father, something he comes to believe.
For 14-year-old real life Surajit Mukherjee 'Kencho', resident of a slum at Tangra and a student of class 9, the film has been an education.
"Before I acted in the film, all I knew was Gandhi was this man with no hair, no clothes except a dhoti, a stick in hand, standing at street corners. Now I know he is the man who fought for our freedom, not with arms but with the spoken and written words," he says, smiling.
The director, 26-year-old Pavel, says, "I auditioned children from theatre and acting schools. But it was just not working. I realized I needed someone who was of a certain milieu, someone who knows life in a slum and then I found Kencho and his friends. They are fantastic."
Indeed, Surajit and his friends - Chipi, among others -- are the real stars of the film with Kahani fame Parambrata playing the role of a good Samaritan trying to ensure their education."The script of Baabar Naam Gandhiji ignited something in me, to do something meaningful, not just for the box office. I was excited by the passion that had gone into the making of a very humane story," says the actor.
It's director Pavel's first film. The message, simple. Surely, for the man on the street, Gandhiji is much more than a face on a currency note or a statue at a road junction. And Kencho takes us on the journey of that rediscovery.