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True Friends

Friday, November 02, 2018

Manish Mundhra’s Drishyam Films that has supported some fine films in recent times and helped produce a Gujarati short film, titled Rammat Gammat (English title: My Best Friend Shoes), written and directed by Ajitpal Singh which had its India Premiere at the recently concluded MAMI Film Festival, in the International Competition of the Half Ticket section. It was the only Indian film among 12 international shorts competing in the children’s category.

The film has already made the round of international film festivals, and has so far been selected for about 20 festivals.

Rammat Gammat is a simple and moving story about two friends who study in the same class in a village school. Avinash (Yash Patel) belongs to a rich family, and the other, Bhushan (Shivam Math) is poor, living with his mother in a hut while his father serves time for theft in prison.

The two boys have no understanding of class, and have a common passion for soccer. There are differences though, like Bhushan eating food lying on the street on a leaf, while Avinash demurs. It is the adults who are more conscious of status—Bhushan is not welcome in Avinash’s home, while the former’s mother (Swati Das) cooks her son’s friend the plainbhakri-chutney he likes, which he eats sitting on the floor.

Avinash is hoping to get admitted to a boarding school on a sports quota, while Bhushan has no such options open to him, even though he is the better player of the two. Avinash has a pair of yellow sports shoes, which he washes with particular attention and puts out to dry. The next morning they are missing. Avinash’s older brother is sure Bhushan has stolen them and goes with his father to the school to accuse the boy.

Bhushan is punished by the teacher—made to squat in the ‘mugha’ posture till he admits to the theft, which he does not. The school mates, as boys are wont to do, cruelly mock Bhushan.

The 18-minute short says so much about the haves and have-nots—like the rich boys are pampered by their mother, while the poor woman struggles to survive, giving in to the advances of a cop. Still, she has the self-respect to beat her son when she realizes he had “borrowed” the shoes to practice all night—perhaps a way of exorcising his disappointment and rage at missing out because of his poverty.

Singh chose the two child actors from Gujarat, and also shot the film in an unspoiled rural location in the state. Shivam Math and Yash Patel are skilled football players in real life and have represented their cities at state level and won awards.

The charm of the film lies in the utterly natural performances by the two boys, who are endearing without making any effort to be ‘cute’ or precocious. While a small storm rages around them over the shoes, the boys do not let it affect their friendship.  One just hopes, after the last shot, that the boys grow up to be kind and forgiving men.

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