Nanda Kishor Prusti, a resident of Kantira village in Odisha, is 104 years old and probably the oldest teacher in the state. He built a free learning space for local children in 1946 and has not stopped imparting education since.
His unwavering enthusiasm towards teaching has become the subject of a documentary by noted filmmaker Pranab Aich. Posters of the 70-minute film that will be screened this year were released in Jajpur district recently.
Prusti, fondly called Nanda Sir, was awarded the Padma Shri in 2021 for his dedication and noble work. Nandamastraanka Chatasali will revolve around the school, his home and workspace in Kantira. “We shot around 80 per cent of the film in his village Kantira under Sukinda block and its nearby areas,” the film director said.
Chatasalis are schools in rural areas run by educated persons to provide basic education to children. They are not government-recognised but some students study in these institutions till fourth grade.
Prusti studied till seventh grade and over seven decades, has provided primary education to hundreds of children who grew up to become teachers, government servants and engineers, among others. Some of his former pupils were interviewed for the film, added Aich.
The film will inspire countless unsung heroes like him who provide education to the poor, according to his present and former students. “I am sure there are many more Nanda Sirs in the country whose work was never reported or filmed but they continue to serve the people,” said Akhila Behera, a villager.
He deserves to be immortalised through this film for setting such a positive example, said Rabindra Sahoo, the sarpanch of Kantira Gram Panchayat.
Founder at LXL Ideas “Syed Sultan Ahmed” and his Tryst with National Awards
Eleven years ago when Syed Sultan Ahmed, founder and chief learner at LXL Ideas, an education community, came up with his first educational short film for kids, little did he know that his vision for imparting knowledge to students through edutainment films would put him in an award-winning streak.
Now, Ahmed is no stranger to awards. He recently bagged his seventh National Award for the film Apples and Oranges in the ‘Best Education Film’ category, which was presented to him by Vice President of India M Venkaiah Naidu.
Directed by Rukshana Tabassum, Apples and Oranges is set in a fantasy world called ‘Fruitistan’ where two sets of people, apples and oranges, don’t gel with each other. “Having won so many awards, the benchmark is now very high. After reading the script of Apples and Oranges, I did feel that we were going to bag an award because it sheds light on an important topic of overcoming differences in society. We still segregate people based on language, colour, religion and the film focuses on achieving unity by ironing out differences,” says Ahmed.
Interestingly, Ahmed is also an ardent biker. His journey from Bengaluru to Mumbai or his rides to Ladakh are a source of inspiration. “During my bike journeys, I come across children working in shops, struggling to attend school. A lot of my films have featured this, shedding light on the struggles of rural children. My biking has got me closer to situations and my films represent experiences that have shaped me,” says Ahmed.
Ahmed’s vision to transform the education system began right from his college days. “When it wasn’t very common to set up a startup in the early 2000s, I went ahead and did it. That is how I started LXL Ideas. I started my career by visiting various schools in Bengaluru and started workshops on life skills,” says Ahmed.
Although he wanted to work with more schools, he lacked the recognition. This is why he began what is touted to be one of the biggest fests for kids, Wizkids, photography, drawing, cooking for students. “I wanted to take the trend of life skills to more schools but I lacked the popularity. With Wizkids I was able to reach students in Rachni, Jamshedpur and Patna,” says Ahmed.
As India struggles to find a robust education system, Ahmed wants his three-year-old daughter to adopt different means to learning. “My wife and I are clear that, as parents, we are going to give her a lot of exposure. I would love for her to live in multiple cultures, communities and spend time in different countries and learn the social dynamics of different societies,” says Ahmed, who is now gearing up for the launch of Saudi Arabia’s first-ever children’s film festival next month.
Wow, do you know any other interesting news about films this year? If not, I’ll tell you the news. Namely there will be a lot of films that have been delayed for a long time but for the end of this year they are all released. Some of these films are Marvel’s new heroes, Eternals Streaming ITA, which has been widely discussed lately, besides this film, there is also Venom 2 Streaming ITA which may have been available since last October in theaters in your country.
But apart from the super hero film, if you are a horror film lover, don’t worry, because there is a horror film that will be released at the end of 2021. The film is a sequel to the first film, Don’t Breathe 2 Streaming ITA or in Italian as L’Uomo nel Buio 2 Streaming ITA.
“I will be curating the festival in one of the most conservative countries in the world. It is an attempt to help the authorities there look at films from an education point of view and a medium of expression… and not just from a religious point of view,” says Ahmed.
So, what keeps him going? “I don’t strive for excellence, but just being true to what I do,” he signs off.
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