Lights, camera, action!

Waking up to the sounds of gun-firing between the Maoists and police is nothing unusual for 18-year-old Purnima Hembram. What was unusual for her was the sound of "camera, lights and action".

Purnima never knew that one day she would be facing camera. But when acclaimed director Gautam Ghose reached the Maoist-affected Junglemahal to shoot his latest film Shunyo Awnko — a film that explores India and Bharat through a prism various issues like insurgency, poverty — life changed for her. Ghose wanted the film to be close to reality. So, he not only shot the film in Junglemahal but also hired locals to share the screen with actors like Soumitra Chatterjee, Konkona Sensharma and Priyanshu Chatterjee.

"The day when the shooting began, Subhas kaku (the film's translators-cum-coordinator) told me that we could come along to watch the shooting. I did not know that I would be a part of a film directed by such a big director," says Purnima, who will appear for her Higher Secondary examination, this March.

"I had only heard of the gunfire exchange between Maoists and police. It's fascinating to see how it is depicted on screen," she says as she takes her seat in a Kolkata auditorium to see the film, which hit the screen on January 18.

She had worked for 12 days on the film's set and earned Rs 2,500 along with food and conveyance. She may be thrilled to talk about all the experience she had — her first day at the shoot, getting to talk with actor Konkona Sen among all, but she is aware that it was probably once in a lifetime opportunity. "My brother was not very happy about working in a film. He says, it is not good," she goes on to add.

Family members of Dhulamoni Hembram, too, are not too comfortable of her acting in the films. Dhulamoni, who is the first year student of Arts at Barabazar District College, says though she enjoyed working for three days at the film's set, she couldn't think of taking it ahead as a career option. "My brothers didn't not approve of it much. They think it is not a good profession, especially for the girls," she says.

For 30-year-old Mangali Mandi, "there is nothing wrong in it". "It's a windfall gain for many to earn some extra money in an area where most of the people live in extreme penury and have hardly anything to eat," she adds. She lives in a joint family of 18 members and works as Gram Panchayat Resource Person. This was not the first time that she got an opportunity to work in a film. Earlier, she had worked with an Austrian filmmaker, who came to shoot in Purulia. "I got Rs 1,400 for a day last time and this time for the 12-day shoot, I was paid Rs 3,600 and food. I was enthralled to see the filmstars," she says.

Gautam Ghose terms his experience of working with the tribals as "enriching and wonderful".

"These people are very tolerant and much more civilised than us, for they know the secret of sustainable development," he told The Indian Express and added that the region has a lot of latent potential.

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