The story of 39-year-old filmmaker Salim Ahamed and his debut feature film Adaminte Makan Abu (Abu, Son of Adam), India’s official entry to next year’s Oscars, has many parallels. The studied pace of the film, almost geriatric in its movements punctuated by deep sighs and silences, captures the travails of a septuagenarian couple Abu and Aishuamma (essayed by Salim Kumar and Zarina Wahab) attempting to fulfil a life-long dream to go on Haj to Mecca. Abu, who sells unrefined attar and religious books to a deodorised world, tightens his dhoti, skips meals and quenches his hunger with water from a roadside well. He believes that Allah will never accept a hajji who makes the hallowed pilgrimage on borrowed money and thus he refuses his neighbour’s offer of financial help. Now, Salim Ahamed needs about Rs 2 crore to take his film to Los Angeles and promote it. But it comes as no surprise, given the subject of the movie, that he will not accept money from fans or borrow from friends to promote his film: that’d be betraying the spirit of the film. He is looking for corporate sponsors or state funding.
So what are the chances of this regional, low-budget film being nominated for the Oscars? Without too much fanfare, it has to get noticed on its own merit. The initial reports have been quite positive. “Whether it is big budget or low budget, the film should have the potential to break the barrier of audiences of all genres. Then it definitely has a chance. The buzz after the official screening of Abu has been amazing. It has a huge chance,” says Dolly Kapoor, the publicity agent for the film in the US. One Academy member mailed Ahamed after the official screening, saying: “I have been in the business for 30 years. When we left the small theatre we were on fire with awe and wonder at how you had captured lightning in a bottle and with the stroke of a master.” Ahamed hopes like-minded well-wishers will help carry his film to the Kodak theatre for the Oscar awards in February. He hopes the real-life script will have a happier ending—in the movie, Abu doesn’t get to go on Haj after all.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Instead of squandering rare resources in the Oscar Race.. maybe a better option for Salim is to conserve his resources and energy and embark upon a new film.. and also dub his film for a nation-wide release (hopefully tax-exemptions from States and wee bit of help from PVR & Reliance / Fun Cinemas it could have a go through the multi-plex route?)
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