NEW DELHI: "It is a very simple film, but has a lot of emotions,'' said Rani about her award-winning short film, Phoolwati Amma. Shweta, who co-directed with Rani, also said the film is heavy with emotion.
Tasked with capturing their school's heritage, the nine-year-olds decided to feature Phoolwati, their school's sweeper for 33 years. The attempt won them the second prize for direction in the Little Directors category at the recently concluded 18th International Children's Film Festival in Hyderabad.For Rani and Shweta, students of South Delhi Municipal Corporation's primary school in New Chaukhandi, west Delhi, the award is a lifechanging experience.

They enjoyed their five-star bed in Hyderabad (" we jumped a lot on it.") and the dishes whose names they have forgotten, but their best memories are of overcoming fears, addressing the crowds and being interviewed by people.

The film was picked out of nearly 600 entries from across the world. "Our first reaction was of disbelief. For us it was a very big platform and we were very happy with the fact that our film was selected in the Little Directors category,'' said Veena Gandhi, principal of the school.

For the project—an MCD and Intach initiative—the girls first thought of a tree and a room that predated the school as subjects before settling on Phoolwati. "We asked our teacher whether a person can be part of heritage? She said yes, so we decided to feature Phoolwati amma. She had been here for 33 years and was retiring from service. She did a lot for the school and loved us all,'' said Rani, whose parents are daily labourers.

Veena said she allowed the girls to make the film on Phoolwati as it was an unusual idea and NCERT's Art-Integrated Learning programme encourages imagination and creativity. Teachers helped the girls shoot the film that starts with a shot of Phoolwati at work, followed by an interview about her days at the school, and ends with schoolchildren giving her gifts at her farewell.

"Shooting the film was a good learning experience, but the award function in Hyderabad was better. We had to speak in front of so many people. We learned that we don't have to be scared. Ma'am (Veena ) told us to just talk about the film, and we did exactly that. We were asked questions in English but we told them to interview us in Hindi. People came and congratulated us,'' said Shweta, whose father works as a security guard.

Lauding the girls, Manish Gupta, commissioner, South Corporation, said, "These children might not have basic facilities, but have dreams and a desire to do something innovative". The girls are already on to their next project—a film on Chhath puja.