Little Terrorist

2004 Short Film

Jamal, a 12 year old Muslim Pakistani mistakenly crosses the border between India and Pakistan, finding an unusual ally in a Hindu Brahmin, Bhola. Indian soldiers descend on Bhola’s village searching for the ‘terrorist’ who crossed over. His niece, Rani, insists they can’t let a Muslim into their Hindu home. With Bhola and Rani grappling with the consequences of harbouring a Pakistani and their deep-set prejudice against Muslims, Jamal’s only hope is the humanity shared by a people separated by artificial boundaries a long time ago.

Little Terrorist

Behind the Scenes

The story of how an unpretentious guerrilla film made it to the Oscars.


  • Almeria En Corto, Spain Audience Award
  • Alternative Film Festival, Romania Winner
  • Aspen Shortfest, USA Honorable Mention by Bafta/LA
  • Buff Film Festival, Sweden Winner
  • Docufest Film Festival Best Film
  • Flanders Film Festival Best Film
  • Lucania Film Festival, Italy Winner
  • Manhattan Film Festival Best Film
  • Montreal World Film Festival 1st Prize
  • Mumbai International Film Festival, India Silver Conch
  • Reelworld Film Festival, Canada Bell Expressvu Award
  • Salento Film Festival, Italy Winner
  • Sao Paulo Intl Short Film Festival, Brazil Audience Favourite
  • Satyajit Ray Foundation, United Kingdom Satyajit Ray Award, Best Short Film
  • Sousse Internatinal Film Festival, Tunisie Winner
  • Tehran Intl Short Film Festival, Iran Grand Prize
  • Temecula Valley International Film Festival, USA Special Jury Prize
  • Almeria En Corto Film Festival In Competition
  • Asian American Int. Film Festival In Competition
  • Asiana Film Festival In Competition
  • Bangkok Intl Film Festival In Competition
  • Berlin Intl Short Film Festival In Competition
  • Bollywood and Beyond In Competition
  • Canadian Worldwide Short Film Festival In Competition
  • Chicago Children’s Film Festival In Competition
  • Cinequest Film Festival In Competition
  • Expression En Corto In Competition
  • La Cittadella Del Corto In Competition
  • London Intl Film Festival In Competition
  • Motovun Film Festival In Competition
  • Odense Film Festival In Competition
  • Palm Springs Short Film Festival In Competition
  • Rotterdam Intl Film Festival In Competition
  • San Francisco Film Festival In Competition
  • San Francisco Intl Film Festival In Competition
  • Sydney Film Festival In Competition
  • Sydney International Film Festival In Competition
  • Tampere Film Festival In Competition
  • Telluride Intl Film Festival In Competition
  • Tobor Film Festival In Competition
  • Tribeca Film Festival In Competition

In early 2003 - a twelve year old Pakistani boy crossed the Indo Pak border by mistake. Indian Prime Minister Atal Bhihari Vajpaee, amidst PR fanfare, restored the boy to his family in Pakistan, kicking off the thaw in tensions between these two nuclear countries who came so close to war less than a year earlier.


Salim Julfuqur Ali
Sushil Sharma
Megnaa Mehtaa
Soldier 1
Trivendra Singh Boraj
Soldier 2
Kuldeep Khangarot
Soldier 3
Bobby Tokas
Vidyun Singh


Ashvin Kumar
Director of Photography
Markus Huersch
Dileep Singh Rathore
Live sound & Sound editor
Roland Heap
Costume Designer
Ritu Kumar
Nainita Desai
Live Music
The Kohinoor Langa Troupe

Salim (Julfuqur) Ali was separated from his family at the age of seven. He was found under a fly-over, having spent a few days without food, by the Salaam Baalak Trust. Based on fragments of information provided by him, his family was found in a New Delhi slum, ending a three year search. Even so, Salim choose to continue living at the trust, where he was auditioned for the role of Jamal. Salim also bagged a role in Ashvin’s feature thriller The Forest. Now part of a professional dancer and theater troupe, Salim works in New Delhi.


In a bizarre parallel to the film’s story, the Kohinoor Laangar troupe, the wandering minstrels in the film, were arrested on suspicion of being illegal immigrants from Pakistan. It was the last day of shooting, the winter sun fast slipping away, the film-makers at their wits end as to how to finish the film. But finally strings were pulled and they were released.

That evening, in the atmospheric ruins of a medieval-fort, their music was recorded by sound-designer Roland Heap and became part of BAFTA nominated composer Nainita Desai’s score. What was a cost-saving impulse led to an unexpected fusion of Indian folk and western film score.

Burning Tents

In the spirit of guerrilla film-making, the crew were housed in tents in the desert location. A short-circuit in the electrical-wiring almost brought the production to an early close as the tent containing the film-stock caught fire and burnt to the ground. The crew ran into the burning tent to retrieve the stock.

Trawling through my archives to prove to YouTube that I indeed own the copyright to my film (grrr!!) stumbled across the actual application form to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, that kicked-off this whole circus.