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Caste, Colour, Religion – Do these categories really exist or are they just creations of the human mind? Do we really know about our religion, caste, class, colour when we are kids? Are we even aware of these when we are young? No. As kids, these things don’t even exist for us. It is only when we grow up and learn or should we say are taught about these things that we become aware of the existence of such things. Raj Pritam More’s short film Khisa is a tale of one such kid who is oblivious of the fact that he belongs to a particular religion and therefore is inspired by and enchanted by a godly figure revered by another religion, only to realise it is not so easy as children find it.
Khisa begins with school students singing the national anthem during the school assembly.
Zameer, however, is busy getting a bigger pocket stitched on his shirt. He is proud of his pocket as it is different and bigger than the pockets of his classmates. When he reaches the school, the history teacher has already started teaching the class about a great king who once ruled the land of Maharashtra. When she asks the students who this brave king was, the students shout in unison – ‘Shivaji Maharaj’. Zameer enters the class and starts listening to the teacher who is telling them about Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s bravery and is so engrossed in the story that he feels inspired and is immediately in awe of Shivaji Maharaj. After the class ends, all students leave the class but Zameer stays back to see a poster of Shivaji Maharaj that is pasted on the wall in the classroom. Outside the classroom, when a fellow classmate tries to bully him, timid Zameer retaliates as Shivaji Maharaj would have done.
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Other children cheer as he walks like a hero. Next, we see a group of children crowded near a man to get photographs of their favourite film stars printed on their shirts. Zameer, too, goes there and picks a Shivaji Maharaj’s photograph to get it printed over his pocket. He proudly shows it to his friends and later to his father who just smiles, makes him sit on the bicycle and then leave for their home. It is here that we realise it is not a tale of childhood innocence but a story of how society kills this innocence. Zameer is a boy belonging to the Muslim community and yet he has found a hero in Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a Hindu king. Zameer has no idea what he is doing but while he is showing his photograph-printed pocket to his friends, two men sitting nearby watch it and it is clear from their expressions that they are not happy. Although Shafiq knows what the implications of Zameer’s innocent act could be, he is quite open-minded and doesn’t take it very seriously. When Zameer asks him if he knows who Shivaji Maharaj is, Shafiq simply answers,
“Yes…he was our king.”
He is however aware of what this can lead to and therefore shuts Zameer’s mouth when he tries to shout ‘Har Har Mahadev’ as they pass by a mosque. When they reach home, Zameer tries to show his pocket to his mother but she is too busy showing bangles to a lady and hence doesn’t pay much attention to him. Zameer enters the house, stands in front of the mirror, ties a turban over his head and tries to imitate Shivaji Maharaj. He still doesn’t think there is some problem with him being enamoured by someone worshipped by people of the ‘other’ religion. At night, however, two men (one being the same person who had seen Zameer showing his pocket to
his friends earlier) arrive at Shafiq’s house and tell him to warn his son not to do things that would create tensions between the two communities in the village. When Shafiq says ‘Kids don’t have religion’, the man shouts back and threatens him of serious implications if the religious boundaries are flouted. Disappointed, Shafiq and his wife try to explain Zameer but his innocence doesn’t let him believe that having a photograph of Shivaji Maharaj printed on his pocket could be a problem for the villagers. For him, it just like other kids getting photographs of their favourite person printed on their shirts. Nothing else.
“If Krishna can get his shirt printed with a photograph, why can’t I?”
Zameer asks. Not able to explain Zameer, his parents leave the topic and go to sleep. They don’t
know what they should do. The next day, Zameer, unlike other days, starts running towards the
school alone. His father runs behind him but he doesn’t stop. He reaches school and joins the
assembly where the students are heard shouting ‘India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters.’ However, Zameer is crying and we see that his parents have removed the pocket of his shirt. I the duration of about 15 minutes, the director has summed up what we as a country have arrived at and how we have been killing the innocence that once united the nation. While the students are pledging ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters’, a small kid is being told that he cannot worship certain figures, he can be inspired only by certain figures. He is made aware of the boundaries that he needs to be careful about. And it is not about which religion is doing this to him. We all are equally responsible. Is this what the makers of the film trying to tell us? Raj Pritam More, a leading visual artist who has won several awards earlier for his artistic career, won the National Award for Best Directorial Debut for this film which was screened at the prestigious International Film Festival of India 2020. Vedant Shirsagar has undoubtedly played Zameer perfectly bringing in all the innocence that the character needs with other actors contributing efficiently to the film.
However, in my opinion, it is Kailash Waghmare, also the writer of the film, who needs special
mention for successfully translating the pain and ordeal Shafiq has to go through with the help of his eyes and dialogues. The film is presently being screened at the New York Indian Film Festival.
Script: Kailash Waghmare
Direction: Raj Pritam More
Cast: Vedant Shirsagar, Kailash Waghmare, Meenakshi Rathod and Shruti Madhudeep.