The extraordinary film about an ordinary man

By Smita Sarkar

Smita Sarkar

‘T for Taj Mahal’ is a story of an ordinary villager who takes on the extraordinary job of finding solutions to educate the children of his village. Branded as the village idiot, the film is riveting story of a determined man who overcomes significant challenges to ensure the next generation does not become victims of the defunct rural education system that failed him.

Directed by Kireet Khurana and co-produced by educationist, entrepreneur and philanthropist the late Abis Rizvi and Sony Pictures; T for Taj is an inspirational film, a soulful take on the debilitated education system in rural India.

Bansi played by Subrat Dutt, runs a roadside dhaba near the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra. The simple yet interesting story is his journey as he looks on for avenues to save a generation of villagers growing without a proper education, ridiculed and duped as he has been.

He hatches a unique social enterprise idea of offering tourists who eat his food, the option of paying their bill, or teaching the local youngsters. The idea is an initial hit, until a big company muscles in.

A working still from ‘T for Taj Mahal’

“We spent six months researching on the subject there. Every small village had a dysfunctional school, there was rampant illiteracy problem. Even after they completed their education, they were barely employable. They neither had the requisite reading or writing skills,” director Kireet Khurana told bollywoodjournalist.com.

Many schools were only functioning on paper, and it is from this backdrop that the story of ‘T for Taj Mahal’ was born.

It was not an easy project to take on as apart from the main cast, the rest were all locals from the villages where the film was shot.

“This is an Indie film and we did not have a huge budget. Apart from the main cast, the rest had to be trained on location. The children had to be short-listed from about 7 or 8 villages and we did a month-long workshop with them,” said Kireet.

The poster of ‘T for Taj Mahal’

However, the journey was a mutually beneficial one. For Kireet, working within tight budgets was a steep learning curve, while the villagers benefitted from the empowering talks on the need for literacy.

“We did not have much money, but we empowered the villagers to get them off their ground and inspired by our discussions on literacy they agreed to educate their children. We also improved the village infrastructure as we made the village roads.”

The late producer Abis Rizvi was Kireet’s strength. His tragic death in the Istanbul terror attack in 2016 left the project stalled, and the unit struggled to complete the film in 2017.

An educationist himself, the Rizvi banner has 21 colleges across India. Kireet reminisces Rizvi’s vision: “he was an incredible human being who had a heart in the real place and did not really care about the returns, but was more focussed on the subject he was making.”

The poignant and delightfully eye-opening film starring Subrat Dutta, Ali Faukner, Pitobash, Bidita Bag and Raveena Tandon in the main cast, will be making its world premiere at the prestigious Cineworld in Leicester Square on the June 23 and at the Watermans on June 24.

“I made the film and don’t want to say too much about it. It’s a film made from the heart with the right intent – see it and judge it for yourself.,” signed off the director.

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