“Born Into Brothels” – Of Hopes and Dreams!

Khud ko kar buland itna
Ke har tadbeer se pehle
Khuda bande se pooche
Bata teri razaa kya hai

It’s been about 10 mins past since I turned off the DVD Player. Had been watching a documentary movie – “Born into Brothels – Calcutta’s Red Light Kids”. Let me give you all the introductory information regarding this movie. It won the Oscar Awards for best documentary in the year 2005, apart from 12 other awards in various prestigious ceremonies all over the world. This movie is directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman. The movie is about the life of the children of prostitutes in Sonagachi – the Red Light area in Calcutta.

There are a set of people who usually object to such movies on the grounds that the Western movie makers seem to be only interested in showcasing the rotting and debilitating aspects of India, rather than show her development and progress on the World Frontier. This aspect is something that I do not even consider worth dealing with in this post at this time. So if there is any wish of bringing that up here, you are welcome to close the browser!
The documentary starts with the director coming to the brothel as a teacher of photography, and handing each kid a camera, and showing them how to shoot photographs. What unveils next is a gentle bonding between the director and a group of children, that takes the viewers to the most sensitive details of their lives! The director’s fight with the local system, families of the children, and the government to get the children a better life, by getting them admitted to a boarding school, even exhibiting their photographs in an exhibition abroad, and giving an opportunity for a kid in the brothel to travel abroad, the eventualities of the children in the end, is what the movie is all about in terms of the story. The effect is verbally immeasurable!
There are a genre of movies that portray vividly the disdain experienced by the downtrodden in all its stark nakedness that makes one steal views, or turn heads! But this movie unlike them, does not leave you with a pain in the heart. It leaves you with hope, and dream, like that of those children – a better tomorrow, a better life! Shanti, Avijit, Suchitra, Manik, Tapasi, Pooja, Kochi, these are children who for some reason go through the travails of abuse every day! There is a moment when the kids are tested for being HIV +ve, when the heart stands still! The dread of becoming one “with the line”, is starkly visible in the eyes of the kids! And yet when one hears them sing joyfully on their way to the zoo, see them playing with wanton abandon in the waters of the beach, invariably the lips trace a curve. Such is the magic of their spirits, that fights undaunted, the hypocrism and abuse of the so called developed society!
This movie is a must watch. The subject is reason enough. If one is in the habit of cribbing, complaining, and exhaling mounds of long drawn sighs at the unjust life, take a break, and watch this movie. It’s a shame, we lack their spirits! The best thing? They give us a part of their own! Adios!


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    • Anonymous on April 2, 2006 at 5:47 AM
    • Reply

    I am extremely sorry I did not close the browser when I was supposed to … because I had problems with this film which, you are, I know, not willing to get into. This film, I felt very, very strongly showed a certain Western “upper handedness” if you know what I mean. There were instances when this came through, like when the director goes to try to enroll the kids in the school, she calls the children’s parents “criminals”. I feel at some point that people find it so easy to judge /slot a person into a particular category … but do they ever go to think that it is not out of those women’s wishes that they are prostitutes..? The director constantly portrays the women using foul language, harsh behavior… making us instantly abhor their behavior …. But do they ever go to think why such behavior might come about? People come along and comment about India’s huge population about how people from a lower class have so many children , but do they ever go to think that for those people children are not a source of amusement, or beauty as they are for someone of an upper class , for a person of lower income children are a “resource.” For these women too their bodies are their resource. Yes we see it as wrong and it might be but see it from a different perspective … the glory of “education” which we keep on a high pedestal is not so important for someone of a lower income background their priorities lie elsewhere, so in the end when some of the kids drop out, of the school they were enrolled in, we are made to feel anger … but is that valid?

    Films make it easy to get carried away… I did also … it was only later when I started questioning things that I realized the wrong impression portrayed in this movie. It is true too that while doing such a mammoth task as the director did it is not possible to keep “all” ethics in mind … but then that is where critics can make a move !

    • Praveen on April 2, 2006 at 6:54 PM
    • Reply

    @anon: I am well aware of the fact that there has been quite a few instances where they have shown the western “we can save thou” attitudes. But I find that far more neglectable, and inconsequential compared to the children! If the viewer is intelligent enough, I am sure they will know what needs to be prioritized. One has to, I feel be matured enough in viewing such movies.

    • samanvitha on April 2, 2006 at 7:07 PM
    • Reply

    have not watched the movie..
    will not comment on that..
    just preponderance of the topic made me say a few things..
    it’s oh so easy to make a movie, watch it and bestow criticism/praise!
    will anyone of us ever be able to comprehend what the poor souls are facing every minute of every day?
    reminds me..when I watched mahanadi..kamal breaking down while watching his daughter say things in her sleep…
    gave me nightmares for days
    ..dont think I will watch this movie..

    • Praveen on April 3, 2006 at 6:29 PM
    • Reply

    @ Samanvitha: Well, one of the problems with what such movies portray is the strong emotional factor, which is absolutely true! It’s a fact! Which is what was shown even in Mahanadi in that particular scene, you wrote about! Yeah, most of us, including me sometimes, deter from watching such movies, as we find them very disturbing.
    I would still differ on that aspect with this movie simply because it reeks of life and hope! Yes! There are stark adversities that are lined up, and cast dark shadows, but at the end of the day, the hope in the eyes of the children is what lingers for a long time in one’s mind!

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