Rehabilitated street children document their lives in Coimbatore Sandhippu, writes K. Jeshi

It is their story. And, the camera follows the characters to record the truth. Coimbatore Sandhippu, a documentary on street children directed by the children of Don Bosco Anbu Illam is a slice of their life, their struggles, their dreams and aspirations.

Ray of hope

When G. Krishnamoorthi from Krishnagiri says he was ill-treated by his parents, it leaves you unsettled.

“My father used to spend his daily wage on liquor, and harass me to seek alms. I ended up on the streets,” he says.

But, there is a glimmer of hope when he says: “Now, I am studying in Class V, and I want to make it big in life.”

The documentary was screened at Nirmala College to a packed audience of children from such homes.

“‘Our life is a story’ is what the students had to say when we asked them to make a film as part of their development activities project,” says Fr. C. Jayaraj, director of Don Bosco Anbu Illam Social Service Society, a centre for street and working children.

Understanding cinema

“Though, in most cases, it is poverty and harassment that drives the children to run away, some of them also end up on the streets because of their aspiration to become film stars. The film gave them an opportunity to understand cinema, and also get their minutes of fame as actors,” he adds.

The film was edited at Alaihal Media, Tiruchi.

Be it R. Gopal from Madhya Pradesh, who took up menial jobs in trains for months together or Sonu from Mumbai who used to live on trains, their stories end on a positive note. But, raise a few questions on the need for societal change.

Abandoned by parents

S. Essakki Muthu from Tirunelveli, S. Shyam from Assam and S. John Peter from Salem ended up on the streets because of lack of parental care. “Though I was harassed at work from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. in Bangalore, they wanted me to stay there for the money. I took a train to Kerala, and reached Coimbatore,” says Esakki.

“Why do elders ill-treat us?” asks John Peter and adds: “I will become a filmmaker, educate the public, and bring about a change in society through my films.”

The filmmaking experience has boosted their confidence levels immensely.

“We thought cinema was all about superstar Rajnikant and Vijay. But, we learnt that it can be used as a powerful tool to convey strong social messages,” says S. Siva from Tirunelveli.

Potential filmmakers

A total of 25 students (between 10 and 17 years) have put their heads and hearts together for the project.

The documentary has been shot at the Don Bosco Illam in Ukkadam and the Coimbatore Railway Station.

“I see potential filmmakers in them. They easily picked up the nuances of film-making, camera movements, lighting and editing,” says R.R. Srinivasan, documentary filmmaker, who guided them.

Honing the skills

As in any film education, he took them through film theory, and followed it with the screening of world classics, animation films and documentaries. To get acquainted with the camera, they went on an outdoor shoot to Vellakinaru.

Coimbatore junction is where the documentary, dedicated to street children, begins.

Facing the world

The real stories are captured in black and white, and their filming experience in colour. A moving train follows the story, a reminder that it is these trains that the abandoned children take shelter in to escape their situation.

“They have gone through so much pain in their lives, but are confident to face the world with a smile,” he adds.

As D. Rajasekar, who is now in Class VIII puts it. “When I was a daily labourer, my future was bleak. Now, it is a new beginning. Our success stories will give a ray of hope to lots of children out there on the streets.”

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