Xahid Khan is a young budding filmmaker from Assam who recently bought glory to the State when his Assamese short film ‘Alert-Condition: Red’ based on the subject of menstruation received global recognition in the recently concluded Jio Filmfare Awards and the 9th International Guwahati Film Festival. The film has also been nominated as the official entry to the Cine Miami Fest in Florida, United States of America this year.
Tell us a little about your journey?
I was born and raised in a small village called Fakirganj in Dhubri to a conservative Muslim family. My father is a school teacher and my mother is a housewife. We didn’t have access to electricity for a long time, but since childhood, I was always inclined towards films. I used to go and watch films along with my friends and cousins in the nearby area. I wanted to learn more about filmmaking but my family didn’t have much knowledge about it. Eventually, due to soil erosion in our village in 2006, our family had to move to Guwahati which turned into a blessing in disguise as I was introduced to different elements of cinema magic. There began my journey in this field.
It struck me when I was pursuing the second year of my Bachelors. I realized filmmaking is what my heart wants. And thus began my struggle. From appearing in acting auditions to gaining technical knowledge, it was a complete rollercoaster ride. Then my friend suggested I should apply for a Diploma in Advanced Animation and Film Making at the Institute for Design of Electrical Measuring under MSME Government of India. I applied and got through. I convinced my parents to approve my decision. After all the police verification and formalities, I landed up in Mumbai, where I worked relentlessly to make my dreams come true.
What struggles did you face in a different city and how did you overcome it?
During the initial phase of my student life, I acquired a wide spectrum of knowledge from industry experts and we had regular sessions on technical know-how. One day, during the showcase of one of my initial short films on serial bomb blasts in 2011, a guest lecturer from Red Chillies Entertainment (Shahrukh Khan and Gauri Khan Production house) came up to me, he appreciated my work and offered me to work as an editor. I consulted with my senior Gagan Das, hailing from Assam, and he advised me to go for it. I took the offer and started to work. But I didn’t have the same zeal to work as an editor, I wanted to be an independent filmmaker but that was still a far fetched dream.
So, I finally made my mind, spoke to my parents and came back to Assam. I worked day and night. It was a big gamble, but by curtailment of expenses and with the help and support of my friends, well-wishers and by God’s grace, I registered a venture under societies act as Firefly Media and Entertainment.
What inspired the idea for Alert – Condition Red?
I am an ardent reader. One day, I was going through an article about a piles patient and how they are reluctant to seek medical treatment due to their inhibitions. Then the subject of menstruation came to my mind, just like piles, menstruation is another topic people do not like to discuss. Even the advertisements on TV show a blue ink instead of red to demonstrate the product which is ridiculous. I read up more about the issue, discussed with my female friends, my mother, sisters, cousins and I got to know that most of them started their periods in a public place like a school, social gathering, function etc. And due to lack of awareness, they were really embarrassed to approach anyone. This made me really sad, I just wanted this subject to reach the masses, not as a preaching but as awareness.
When I started working on it, there were many hassles, problems of capital, and casting of the child protagonist. Many girls auditioned but when we revealed the story, their parents did not allow the girls to take part because of their discomfort. Finally we somehow decided on the lead cast, but sadly on the day of the shooting, the lead was unavailable and not reachable. We had lost all hope. It was then one of our team members suggested Himadri’s name and that is how we got our central character. Everything fell into place and the film was a success.
What is your take on the Assamese film industry?
I am quite positive when it comes to creativity, no one can beat us. We have a lot of talent but what we lack is star power which is in abundance in Bollywood, South Indian film industry and even Bhojpuri film industry. Five years down the lane, I want to contribute my best to this industry, so that the audience can come and appreciate our work, our artists and our heritage. According to me, content is king, and the Northeast is filled with majestic landscapes, flora and fauna, which when utilized effectively can help us grow. Also, most importantly, B grade content and piracy must be stopped. By doing this, we can make Assamese film industry one of the most promising industries in the nation.
Who can be credited for your success?
My Ammi (mother), who is the strongest pillar in my life. My mother was the first person in my family to support me, my girlfriend who funded me in my initial years and supported me, and last but not least, my family.
By Ankita Kakaty
Photos: Xahid Khan’s Facebook Page