Child actors of the critically acclaimed Bengali film Dostojee secured their academic future on Wednesday as a private school took up the responsibility of their education.
Arif Shaikh and Asik Shaikh were Class IV students in a school in Murshidabad ‘s remote Bhagiratpur village when debutant director Prasun Chatterjee spotted them in 2018 for his moving tale of childhood innocence in the backdrop of communalism. The boys were accompanied in the film by Hasnehana Mondal, who was a Class II student back then in Fatehpur village.
Their film was released in 2021 and has since visited 26 nations across the world, winning accolades ranging from UNICEF’s CIFEJ Prize, Malaysia Golden Global Award and the best film award in London’s Arts Council of England. However, nothing much changed in the lives of the child actors.
On Wednesday, Chatterjee and his team accompanied the kids to the Guidance Academy in Murshidabad’s Talai to get them admitted there.
“I’m not going anywhere else. This is where I’ll study for the rest of my life,” an elated Hasnahena, now in Class IV. Arif and Asik study in Class VI.
Arif’s father Saidul is a small cultivator whose annual income doesn’t exceed Rs 50,000. In Asik’s case, his father Akhtarul, a carpenter, doesn’t earn more than Rs 400 a day. Hasnahena’s father Halim is a traditional medicine man who earns Rs 5,000 a month.
Chatterjee said he had been worried about their education.
“I was worried about their education. I’m very happy that it is being taken care of by this school. I wish them all the luck,” Chatterjee told journalists on Wednesday. “Now I’m confident that their future is secured,” he said.
Emdadul Haque, the founder of Guidance Academy affiliated to the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education and West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education, said the school would pay for the kids’ education up to the higher secondary.
“Ours is a Bengali medium school and we hope the three children enjoy their studies here,” Haque said.