Published: 07th April 2021
Divided by caste, united by football: How this 44-year-old's film echoes the true spirit of friendship
If you prefer MUBI, which offers hand-picked enriching cinema over OTTs being overtaken by mainstream cinema, you must have heard of Rammat-Gammat surely. This short film is the one you should watch!
If there was ever any doubt about the fact that football is indeed a beautiful sport, the opening shot of the short film Rammat-Gammat dispenses away with these quickly. Nimble yet bare-footed Bhushan is seen dribbling away with a confidence and ease that captivates his friend Avinash whose feet are clad in loafers. Then Bhushan proceeds to balance the ball on his back and now, he has our attention too. Now imagine all this unraveling in Wilson Hills, Gujarat. "Not only is football a more equal game, because all you require is a ball as opposed to cricket where you additionally employ bat and stumps, but it is also the more cinematic of the two," reasons self-taught filmmaker Ajitpal Singh. But even when you are drunk on its beauty, it's hard not to notice the caste difference made obvious by their footwear and established even firmly when we realise Bhushan is not even allowed inside Avinash's house. And as the contrasts grow more and more stark throughout the 18-minute film, one will find that there is still beauty to behold, not just in football but in the duo's unbreakable friendship.
Behind the scenes with Singh | (Pic: Rammat-Gammat)
After premiering at the 64th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in 2018, this Gujarati short film is gaining a new audience every year, just like it did when it released on MUBI, the film-streaming platform, on March 20, 2021 as the Film of the Day. Among the many badges of honour pinned to the film's proud chest, it was the only Indian film to be selected for one of the world's largest children's film festivals, CINEKID, Amsterdam. The story itself draws inspiration from the prolific Hindi writer Munshi Premchand's story Bade Bhai Sahab. It took about four to five months to write in 2017 and was shot over seven days in August 2017. "The issue with short films is, when you are shooting, the moment everyone gets into the rhythm of the story, the shooting concludes. This is why the cast and the crew got into a three-week pre-production process so that we would hit upon our rhythm as soon as we began shooting," he shares. Plus, being a part of Prashant Bhargava's film Patang helped him experience theatre workshops for children with traumatic childhoods. So he applied the same fundamentals while shooting Rammat-Gammat with the two star boys in reel life, who have actually won laurels in football in real-life.
Rammat-Gammat is produced by Drishyam Films, Tejash Shah (Accord Equips) and Mauli Singh
Getting back to the movie itself, it's easy to draw parallels between the director Singh and Bhushan, who have both had more-than-normal tough childhoods. While Bhushan is subjected to heckling though his athleticism is more than obvious, Singh moved to Gujarat when there was a strong stench of anti-Sikh (around the time when former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot by her Sikh bodyguard) in the air. Being called a terrorist was a routine that Singh was used to. He says it was his parents, friends and literature that kept him going. "Going through traumatic experiences can either make you a victim or give you that rare understanding of sorrow and life. It is the latter who often question the world as it is and wonders how it can be made better," ruminates the 44-year-old. It's obvious which side of the spectrum Singh is on. The director even reveals that he was a very good sportsman but being a security guard's son in a rich township kept opportunities at bay. "What I experienced because of my religion, Bhushan experiences the same because of his caste," he points out.
The poster | (Pic: Rammat-Gammat)
Avinash and Bhushan's friendship is going strong until the latter's new football shoes go missing and immediately, the former is branded as the thief. And the duo weather this out as well, even after the great revelation. "As children, we don't know boundaries. For them, food is food and friendship is friendship," says Singh matter-of-factly. And indeed, this is established when Avinash savours a humble meal served with love by Bhushan's mother in their shanty hut.
Perhaps that's what life is about, the friendship between best buds that blossom and bloom even amidst differences and dirt. Whether we nurture this bond with football or films or something entirely different, is entirely up to us.