Abhinav Shiv Tiwari says his film Oass that shows the horrors of child trafficking is just a diagnosis
Sold by her aunt to prostitution when barely in her teens, Kiku struggles to come to terms with her reality. She tries to escape, three times, risking torture from her “owners” each time. But will she escape? The viewer constantly finds himself wondering, unable to bear the horrific loss of innocence, and the unjust trials such girls face.
Filmmaker Abhinav Shiv Tiwari captures her story in his debut film Oass or The Dew Drop (in English), that was recently screened at the 5 Bengaluru International Film Festival.
“I was part of a UNESCO team that was doing a short film on girls rescued from brothels. I met this girl whose story was interesting. After narrating her story, she was clear that she held no grudges. What she wanted to do at that tender age after facing all this was to start working with an NGO and save other girls from this future,” says Abhinav.
“What she shared made me change the way I think. It took me a long time to fathom how someone so young could talk like this. That was the time, though I was ready with some other scripts, I decided that this would be the story I would tell in my first film.”
Abhinav took over five years gathering all the information he could about child trafficking, travelling across the borders of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Burma, meeting pimps, and women who were working in brothels, women who were rescued, police officers, and NGOs.
“I was funding my own research at that time. It was difficult to get in touch with pimps. But once I befriended them, I visited different brothels as a customer to talk to these girls, without letting their bosses know what I was doing. Sometimes I had to call them out of the brothels because I was not comfortable going there so many times. Then there was always this lingering fear of getting caught.”
Convincing Indian actors was also a big challenge. Abhinav had them undergo a workshop with professors from the National School of Drama, to get into and comfortable with their characters. It was even more difficult finding somebody who was at least 18, to play Kiku’s role without seeming too old for the character. This was necessary, because Abhinav was intent on making a feature film rather than documentary. “A feature film has a wider range. It touches wider audience base, there is not much of a documentary culture in our country. There are hardly any documentaries that touch you emotionally, and I wanted to bring out emotion, though it was not easy.” The film, however, does not seek to initiate a movement. According to Abhinav, it is simply a diagnosis.
“I wanted to share the reality of what is happening to these girls. I wanted to disturb and shake people with it. The Delhi ghetto is not far away from certain important government establishments. How long can we close our eyes and turn our backs? ,” questions Abhinav.
“With the response we have received so far, I can see that it is possible to sensitize everybody and we can take steps. It’s not that government is not working. There are police officers who work with NGOS. But child trafficking is the largest contraband industry in the world after arms and drugs.”