Thursday, September 15, 2005

Born Into Brothels by Zana Briski : A Review

Last night had a chance to watch this much talked about documentary film.It is mostly shot the red light areas of Kolkata - but what makes it so touching is that it entirely deals with the kids from there. The film opens pretty quietly - giving a chance to the viewer to get used to the surroundings - a separate world within the city - as she describes it. Then slowly we get to know the protagonists of the story - the little kids who are growing up there suffering all the abuse seeing all not so nice stuff going on.

The story moves forward when "Zana Aunty" hands them click and shoot cameras and teaches them basics of photography. And from the dingy bylanes of Sonagachi to Calcutta Zoo to Digha, wherever they go, they end up getting some real nice pictures as they learn the techniques of composing a frame and all that. When one of them says she loves taking pictures but doesnt like picking the good photos from pile - I am sure a lot of us can identify ourselves with that little girl!

And all through this - we start getting friends with the characters - some of them are so unbelievably spontaneous in front of the camera. Sometimes the dialogues do appear way too mature for those little kids - but I guess that much artistic leeway can be given. As their photos start getting the attention- Zana tries to put them into residential schools. Its not an easy job to convince the parents to let go their kid - sometimes a potential "earning member" of the "family" - but her relentless effort does get rewarded to an extent - although we learn later that most of them do not continue their studies.

Its not a sensational story - just capturing images from day to day lives. But the photography is amazing and incredibly real - and the sheer liveliness of those kids brings a smile to your face. And since the setting is undeniably Kolkata - my home town - all the sights and sounds do make me nostalgic. After all how many times I get to watch a film with that familiar settings sitting 10000 miles away from home!

Its a pity that political powers did not allow the film to be screened over there. The film is entirely focused on the children - not at all a reflection of Kolkata and never pretends to convey any political message. Its just a human interest story - viewed through the eye of an westerner - where the settings play a passive role and the those deprived children for once take the front stage.

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