Official Trailer of Kannada Film Railway Children.
Produced by Tin Drum Beats (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Written and Directed by Prithvi Konanur
“Railway Makkalu (ರೈಲ್ವೆ ಮಕ್ಕಳು)” is a Kannada feature film and is inspired by the real incidences experienced by the NGO Sathi and from the research book “Rescuing Railway Children” by Lalitha Iyer and Malcolm Harper.
This film makes an honest attempt to explore the intimate realities of platform survival.
The film explores various themes such as abuse, sexual abuse and addiction. It also explores one of the least explored themes in World Cinema: the trans-gender issues among girls.
In this world of platform-survival there are gangs, there’s drugs, there’s sexual violence, there’s entrepreneurial spirit, there’s life, there’s hope, there are helping hands and there are cruel bosses.
Railway children attempts to explore this world through the eyes of 10 year old Raju.
In the end, Railway Children is a fictional feature film with mostly children driving the story forward.
Rail Tube has been able to speak with Prithvi Konanur, who wrote and directed the film..and Don Thompson, who co-produced the film.
Don kindly responded to Rail Tube’s request for an interview……..which follows….
PL: How did you first learn about the film project ‘Railway Children’? What is the film about?
DT: My production company offers crowd funding grants to film projects that fall under the umbrella of ‘humanitarian’ or ‘humanistic’. Prithvi Konanur (director/writer) had submitted ‘Railway Children’ for a grant, and after reviewing his rough material we were impressed by both the message and the film’s artistry and came on board to support the project. The film’s story involves a runaway young boy Raju and his journey into the underbelly of the railway ‘platform business’ in India. The situation for these children is desperate – they’re running away from home and they end up in situations that are exploited by black market operators and drug dealers. It’s a no-win situation for the children.
We were incredibly excited when the film was accepted at the 2016 Mumbai International Film Festival in India (billed as India’s largest film festival) – in competition in the India GOLD section. This was no small feat in a very competitive situation.
Because we felt very strongly about ‘Railway Children’ we’re also intent on helping the film reach a wider audience through outreach at major festival markets such as Cannes and the upcoming European Film Market in Berlin (2017). Ideally, we can help the film get visibility at other major festivals outside of India (many that have representatives at the markets) and, eventually, distribution. The film will also be up for consideration for Indian national film awards.
PL: What made you want to become involved in the film?
DT: We do receive a lot of requests for support, so any film we do end up with is, in our opinion, one that is both artistically strong but also brings a message that can, on some level, shed light on the human condition and ideally bring people to a more empathetic outlook toward their fellow human beings. I was particularly struck by ‘Railway Children’ because it reminded me of the classics of Italian neo-realism, as well as building on the traditions on Indian realist masters such as Satyajit Ray and others. Prithvi has also mentioned that he was influenced by the modern Iranian neo-realists. But for me personally I think back to the Italian neo-realist masters such as Bresson, De Sica and Rossellini – filmmakers who delved into the underbelly of Italian society after World War II with the intent of revealing the depth of human suffering in Italy at that time. In the case of ‘Railway Children’ the film also describes the work of Indian NGOs to help the children – heroic work that often goes unrecognized.
My wife and I have also travelled quite a bit in India and seen the poverty there directly. That said, poverty in India is a relative thing – village life in India can often be happy, even without a lot of resources. But the kind of poverty and exploitation seen in ‘Railway Children’ is in a situation where family life is not working and the resulting crisis with the runaway children in unacceptable to any feeling person.
PL Why do you believe this kind of film is important?
DT: The amazing thing about ‘Railway Children’ is that it conveys an important social message while at the same time completing enveloping you in the world of the children on the platform. It is an incredibly engaging film on the level of the story. It is also gut-wrenching and definitely brings tears to the eyes. The film could also be considered a microcosm of global economics – how the game of human exploitation runs deep and pervasively throughout our modern world. In this sense the film could be considered a metaphor for the dark side of globalization and global capitalism.
PL: What are the charities and NGOs trying to help and how can they be more effective?
DT: The charities/NGOs (such as SATHI) that are represented in the film do their best to convince the children to give up the platform business and reconcile with their parents. If the children have fallen into drug addiction, they can also serve as a half-way house to de-tox a child. My takeaway from the film is that local law enforcement often is open to bribery and therefore will be too complacent in enforcing existing laws or coordinating with the NGOs in a more proactive way. Instead, the police seem to look the other way and only get involved if there is a (perhaps violent) crime and/or death involved, in which case they can no longer turn a blind eye.
PL: What are the challenges in creating a film like this?
DT: I know that Prithvi had a pretty exhausting experience working with the local authorities in getting permission to film. Also, funding is always an issue. Fortunately, there were enough supporters on the crowd funding campaign to get the film produced. I must say that having witnessed quite a few independent films go into production that the passion and commitment shown by Prithvi and team to get the film done, and in a high quality fashion, was miraculous. Indie films can often take years to fund and complete – ‘Railway Children’ was done in a much quicker timeframe — at least in terms of production.
PL: Do you believe the film can have an impact, and in what way?
DT: Our hope is that the film can have a positive impact by bringing to light the desperate situation of these children. As of this writing, there may also be some impact of India’s PM Modi’s new laws banning 1000 and 500 rupee notes, although my suspicion is that this will not have an impact as the children and their platform exploiters exist on even a level below this. For example, Shrihari Sathe’s recent film ‘1000 Rupee Note’ shows how Modi’s policies could perhaps have an impact on the corrupt (often local) political environment. Regardless, we would love to have ‘Railway Children’ screen to a much wider international audience and shed light on this situation and perhaps prod the government to provide more support to the NGOs and their work. Time will tell, but we remain hopeful.
Rail Tube would like to thank both Prithvi Konanur and Don Thompson for taking the time and trouble to speak with us.
The film carries an important message, and it is to be hoped that its’ impact on Indian “railway children’s ” lives will be for the better.