A SHORT FILM BY KARISHMA DUBE
Set in a forgotten Himalayan community, this film follows eight year-old BITTU. Unlike most girls in her village, Bittu is a streetwise charmer with a brilliantly foul toungue. Chand is Bittus' best friend and young protegé: Polar opposites but always a team - they play, steal, fight and hustle together - reciting dirty jokes for quick money in crowded bus stops. The natural performer Bittu excels at all things street level.
But at school things are different.
Chand outperforms Bittu in every way — a keen student in pristine uniform, she is naturally everybody's favorite at school. Meanwhile Bittu, resents the rote and attend school for her free lunch. On this day, events escalate quickly between the two friends, bringing them to an end they never imagined.
BITTU is inspired by an infamous school poisoning that took place in India in 2013. This film is less about why and how the poisoning happened; instead, it explores a child's experience suddenly and senselessly thrown into such peril. At its heart, the film is about a fierce sense of loyalty and friendship held by a young girl who is punished for her individuality and somehow saved by it.
In reimagining the narrative, I took the story to a remote village in the Himalayas' forgotten side, a place that was also home to my boarding school growing up. It was here when I formed my complicated relationship with authority, much like the one Bittu has with her teachers in school.
The girls I would cast needed to have a relationship with the area and a strong connection. I began street casting in and around our location-simply by introducing myself to local communities and government schools in the area, playing games, and conducting theatre workshops with the kids. Weeks into the process, I found a small settlement of migrant laborers a few villages away. As we entered, Rani Kumari emerged from a crowd of kids, walking up to us with a cool air of confidence, "What's up? You want to play?"
Rani and I formed a great friendship, which evolved into the most rewarding creative relationships I've had. Over the next few months, the task became to create a fictional world around who the children actually were. On their part, the kids were generous, letting me into their world, playing, watching films, talking, and sharing meals. We gradually built our own shorthand as good friends do, creating the trust that carried us through even the most trying days on set.
We shot the film over six days after two months of rehearsals with a cast almost entirely of first time performers. I left Dehradun inspired and completely changed.
Karishma Dev Dube
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER
KARISHMA DEV DUBE
Karishma Dube is an award-winning filmmaker based in New York. Born and raised in New Delhi, Karishma came to the states to attend the Graduate Film Program at NYU, where she was a Dean’s Fellowship recipient.
Her first film DEVI premiered at BFI London Film Festival before playing 56 international film festivals, including Edinburgh Film Festival, Frameline, Palm Springs ShortFest, LA Film Festival, and Outfest LA where it won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film.
Her latest film BITTU is a Student Academy Award Winner and recipient of the inaugural Black Family Prize grant and Reise Award for post-production. BITTU had its North American premiere at Telluride Film Festival and has played at festivals internationally, including the BFI London Film Festival, Palm Springs Shortfest, and Short Shorts Asia Film Festival.
Currently, Karishma is developing her debut feature film. Additionally, she is producing Mary Evangelista’s feature, BURNING WELL, which was part of the Sundance Talent Forum 2019 and TFI Network 2020.