Lights, camera, award: Syed Sultan Ahmed and his tryst with National Awards
Syed Sultan Ahmed, edupreneur and filmmaker, who recently won the National Award for his film – which was presented by Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu – takes CE through its making
Eleven years ago when Syed Sultan Ahmed, founder and chief learner at LXL Ideas, an education community, came up with his first educational short film for kids, little did he know that his vision for imparting knowledge to students through edutainment films would put him in an award-winning streak.
Now, Ahmed is no stranger to awards. He recently bagged his seventh National Award for the film Apples and Oranges in the 'Best Education Film' category, which was presented to him by Vice President of India M Venkaiah Naidu.
Directed by Rukshana Tabassum, Apples and Oranges is set in a fantasy world called 'Fruitistan' where two sets of people, apples and oranges, don't gel with each other. "Having won so many awards, the benchmark is now very high. After reading the script of Apples and Oranges, I did feel that we were going to bag an award because it sheds light on an important topic of overcoming differences in society. We still segregate people based on language, colour, religion and the film focuses on achieving unity by ironing out differences," says Ahmed.
Interestingly, Ahmed is also an ardent biker. His journey from Bengaluru to Mumbai or his rides to Ladakh are a source of inspiration. "During my bike journeys, I come across children working in shops, struggling to attend school. A lot of my films have featured this, shedding light on the struggles of rural children. My biking has got me closer to situations and my films represent experiences that have shaped me," says Ahmed.
Ahmed's vision to transform the education system began right from his college days. "When it wasn't very common to set up a startup in the early 2000s, I went ahead and did it. That is how I started LXL Ideas. I started my career by visiting various schools in Bengaluru and started workshops on life skills," says Ahmed.
Although he wanted to work with more schools, he lacked the recognition. This is why he began what is touted to be one of the biggest fests for kids, Wizkids, photography, drawing, cooking for students. "I wanted to take the trend of life skills to more schools but I lacked the popularity. With Wizkids I was able to reach students in Rachni, Jamshedpur and Patna," says Ahmed.
As India struggles to find a robust education system, Ahmed wants his three-year-old daughter to adopt different means to learning. "My wife and I are clear that, as parents, we are going to give her a lot of exposure. I would love for her to live in multiple cultures, communities and spend time in different countries and learn the social dynamics of different societies," says Ahmed, who is now gearing up for the launch of Saudi Arabia's first-ever children's film festival next month.
"I will be curating the festival in one of the most conservative countries in the world. It is an attempt to help the authorities there look at films from an education point of view and a medium of expression... and not just from a religious point of view," says Ahmed.
So, what keeps him going? "I don't strive for excellence, but just being true to what I do," he signs off.