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Aishu Didi- Inspiring Hopes, Igniting Imaginations


“A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart”.

‘Aishu Didi’, a film by Athyunnath Eleti, is more than just a documentary. It is, at its core, the story of a woman battling the odds to awaken a love for learning among her pupils. Her challenges, however, extend beyond the cramped confines of her classroom too.

Aishu Didi, Athyunnath Eleti’s entry for the NYU School of Journalism’s News and Documentary film festival, chronicles the story of Aishwarya Shetty, an MIT-alumnus as she joins Teach for India, a non-profit organisation that ropes in college graduates and working professionals to serve as teachers in low-income schools. Set in the old city of Hyderabad, one of the most staunchly conservative localities of India, Aishwarya’s biggest challenge is a society held back by its unwavering refusal to evolve and break the shackles which hold it back.

It is quite evident to the audience from the very get-go that this is no ordinary teacher. As soon as she enters her classroom, we see that the students call her ‘Aishu Didi’ instead of ‘Teacher’ or ‘Ma’am’. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the fact that there is more to this student-teacher relationship than what meets the eye. This is further corroborated as the movie shows us Aishu Didi’s interaction with her kids and perhaps, more importantly, the ease with which she moulds her students, while simultaneously being moulded by them.

‘Aishu Didi’ is a film which touches on numerous themes including nascent feminism among repressed children, and the aspirations they harbour. It is set against the darker backdrop of the truth that most of them will never really be able to live up to their dreams—a dark truth that the audience very well knows. Another poignant aspect of the movie is the relationship between Aishwarya and her student, Rizwan. For Rizwan, who comes from a home with an abusive father, his ‘Aishu Didi’ and school are probably the only rays of sunshine in his dark life.

Athyunnath Eleti’s cinematography and direction add a human element to the tale that goes beyond a mere documentary. What adds to the natural feel of the movie is the sheer simplicity of the direction. Adding to the feel-good factor of the movie is the soundtrack composed by Jennifer Rowekamp and Paul Jacob Kneusel.

As a whole, ‘Aishu Didi’ exposes the stereotypes prevalent in a corner of society otherwise isolated from the rest of the world. More importantly, it stresses upon the fundamental right to education guaranteed to every child by our politicians—a promise most of these politicians fail to deliver upon. This is an issue which needs to be remedied as soon as possible because, at the end of the day, the children of today are the citizens of tomorrow.

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