Actor Rahul Bose returns to direction almost 15 years after he helmed Everybody Says I’m Fine! In the film Poorna, he tells the true story of Malavath Purna, a 13-year-old tribal girl from Telangana who created history by becoming the youngest girl in the world to scale the Mount Everest. “I don’t think anyone could have written a more improbable story. Until two years ago, she lived in a hut and it’s only now that she has a pukka house in her village, Pakala. When you see that house and the family’s goats, you think how many twists of faith did it take for her to reach where she did. Most tribal boys don’t leave the village and here this girl climbed the Everest. She went to a tribal school and was destined to get married.”
In the film, Rahul plays RS Praveen Kumar, an IPS officer who was instrumental in Purna’s life. “Praveen Kumar also went through the tribal school system in Andhra Pradesh. After becoming Secretary of Social Welfare in 2013, he cleaned up the schools, where the food was bad, education system broken and teachers complacent. He started, as part of his new deal, extracurricular activities like robotics and choreography, and rock-climbing—which Purna ended up choosing,” say Rahul, adding, her instructor, who was an Everest Summiteer, and Praveen decided to send a few children to Darjeeling to further their skills. Then Praveen had an audacious idea. He thought, what can I do that is talismanic? So that every tribal parent can say, that girl did this, so we should keep our child in school? The idea grew into summiting Everest.
It was a tough film to make for the actor-director. “I keep saying that I will write a book about how hard it was. We’ve shot in -15 degrees to 45 degrees. We spend three months shooting in her village and then went to Sikkim where it was between -15 and -20 in January.”
To play Purna, Rahul auditioned over a 100 kids. “I was keen on casting a tribal girl, but we finally chose a non-tribal because she is a fantastic actor. I wanted someone with a spark. It was tough to find a little girl who could act and make you believe that she could climb the Everest.”