9-year-old Bengal actor wins Greece festival award for 'Dostojee'
Actor Arif Shaikh, aged nine, has been named the best young actor in the 'Child's Performance' category at the 24th Olympia International Film Festival in Greece. Shaikh was honored for the Bengali feature film Dostojee (Two Friends), directed by Prasun Chatterjee. He plays the role of Safikul, the son of a brick kiln worker and a homemaker.
At the young age of nine, Shaikh bagged an international award in his debut appearance. Dostojee also marks the debut feature for director Chatterjee. The film sends a message of inter-faith harmony through the innocent friendship of two boys in Murshidabad's Domkal village. It is set in the aftermath of the communally-charged 1992 Babri Masjid demolition and the 1993 Bombay blasts.
Through his debut feature, Chatterjee has addressed the themes of friendship, sorrow, and healing. As the country grapples with a rapidly increasing communal split, Dostojee examines the shifting dynamics of ordinary relationships. The movie revolves around two friends, Palash (portrayed by Asik Shaikh) and Safikul (Shaikh) as they explore the universe together, unaffected by religion, Chatterjee told The Indian Express.
After casting Asik as Palash, Chatterjee unsuccessfully hunted for his Safikul until he was approached by Asik's friend. Chatterjee recalled an angry nine-year-old boy (Shaikh) arriving at his doorstep and inquiring about the casting. "I am a child and I want to act, just call your director," Chatterjee recalled a precocious Shaikh as telling him.
Chatterjee said, "[Shaikh] was very angry and said, 'I don't have much time; I have to go to play with my friends, please call your director.'" "When I told him that I was the director he said you don't look like," he said. It was Shaikh's curt reply that landed him the role, which has now earned international recognition.