Nine-year-old Arif Shaikh, who acted in the Bengali feature film ‘Dostojee’ (Two Friends), has won the best young actor award in the Child’s Performance (Boy) category at the 24th Olympia International Film Festival in Greece.
The father of Arif, who has portrayed the character of Safikul in the feature, works at a brick kiln and his mother is a housewife. He is the first in his family to go to school.
In his debut feature, writer and director Prasun Chatterjee has explored friendship, loss and healing in a border village of Bengal. The film captures the innocent friendship of two boys in Murshidabad district’s Domkal village, separated from Bangladesh by the Padma river.
The film is set in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition and the subsequent Bombay blasts.
“The film shows true friendship between two innocent boys who are untouched by the Babri Masjid demolition and the following Bombay blasts. It shows the bond between eight-year-old Palash (Asik Shaikh) and Safikul (Arif Shaikh), who aren’t effected by the religion they follow or the society they belong too,” Chatterjee told The Indian Express.
Recalling how Arif bagged the role of Safikul, the director said, “After casting Asik as Palash, we were searching for our Safikul. We visited every primary school in the area but were unable to find what we were looking for. One afternoon, as I was packing to return to Kolkata, an angry nine-year old came banging at my door. The boy was Arif, whose friend Asik was cast as Palash. The day we were looking for Safikul, Arif was absent from school. When Arif heard that Asik had been selected for a feature film and there was a director who was looking for another boy, he came on his own.
“As I opened the door, he immediately asked, ‘Are children being cast in films here?’ I said, yes. Then he said, ‘I am a child and I want to act, just call your director.’ I politely asked him to come inside. He was very angry and said, ‘I don’t have much time; I have to go to play with my friends, please call your director.’ When I told him that I was the director he said you don’t look like.”
The director said Arif’s curt reply won him over and he was cast in the feature.
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