Karishma Dev Dube’s Bittu about the friendship of two little girls has been shortlisted for the 2021 Academy Awards for Live Action Short Film. Dube has already won a silver medal in the Student Academy Award 2020 for Bittu and this could be counted as an advantage in the 93rd Academy Award. The film is getting support from Bollywood celebrities and Indian Women Rising, a cinema collective.
Another Indian contender in the race of Oscars is the Indian documentary Black Sand, which has qualified for 2021 Oscar awards under the Documentary Short Category section.
“Bittu is a film that seeks to give voice to an overlooked community, and follows a fierce little girl who refuses to be forgotten,” said Dube. Talking about the film and the protagonist, she added:
“Bittu stems from certain aspects of my life in boarding school in Dehradun — my most formative friendships in, and sometimes my difficult relationship with, authority. At its core, however, the film is a re-imagination of the infamous 2013 school poisoning in Bihar through the eyes of Bittu, a fierce and brilliantly foul-mouthed eight-year-old girl. The film is less about why and how the poisoning happened, instead, it attempts to bring to life an otherwise forgotten community in the foothills of the Himalayas.”
Bittu was screened at several film festivals including Palm Springs Shortfest, Dharamshala International Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival. Dube also won the Best Director Award for the film at the Hollyshorts Film Festival.
Karishma Dev Dube is an Indian filmmaker based in New York. Her recent work is DEVI, an award-winning short film that has featured on BBC World and played in over 40 film festivals around the world. Dube bagged the Best Asian American Student Filmmaker Award in East Region for Bittu at the 26th Annual DGA Student Film Awards for African American, Asian American, Latino and women directors. She has done Master in Fine Arts in writing and direction from the New York University.
Dube said that she makes very Indian stories, but with the craft she has learnt in New York. She hopes to “represent her school and country on the platform.”
She added that the entire team dedicated themselves to protect and encourage young leads around which the story is set and revolves. Dube felt the lead took responsibility so seriously which left them inspired adding that she’s proud to represent their work on this platform.
In an interview, she said:
“I started writing the film around 2015. The incident happened a year before I went to film school and it caught the imagination of the media… My intention from the start was to never make anyone the villain, but I didn’t want to spare anybody either. Everyone had some weakness, but no one had set out to kill 23 children.”
Bittu is also a victim of this systemic negligence.
Dube said that she spent around three months at the location, the forgotten side of Dehradun. She moved to this small village and started street-casting.
As an attempt to support and empower Indian female talent in cinema, Ekta Kapoor, Balaji Telefilms Ltd. and Balaji Motion Pictures, Guneet Monga, Founder of Sikhya Entertainment, and Tahira Kashyap Khurrana, Writer and Filmmaker, came together to lay the foundation of Indian Women Rising (IWR), a cinema collective.
In a joint statement, IWR expressed their delight and said they are immensely proud of the success of Bittu since Dube is an incredible storyteller. IWR will guide and direct the film through its Oscar campaign.
The collective also said, “With IWR, our aim is to be able to provide the necessary thrust to potential stories in order to achieve higher goals. Bittu seemed the ideal choice for our first project with its refined story and immaculate presentation and we plan to shine spotlight at the film as it joins the run for Oscars in Best Live Action Short category.”
Tahira Kashyap stated, “Bittu is all heart. The filmmaker’s honesty comes through every character and frame.”
She added, “‘Bittu’ is a heart-warming watch. The film’s story and its endearing characters tug at your heartstrings and you can’t help but walk their emotional journey with them, hand-in-hand.” Dube manages to bring out a myriad of emotions through her film.