As a tribute to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi, Jhalki , a fictionalised account of the activist’s efforts against child slavery and bonded labour, was screened in his presence in Mumbai on Saturday. This year also marks the fifth anniversary of Mr. Satyarthi winning the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.
Set in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, the film follows a little girl, Jhalki, on her pursuit to rescue her younger brother, Babu, from a carpet-weaving unit. On her way, she meets several characters like policemen, IAS officers, journalists and eventually Mr. Satyarthi (played by Boman Irani). “As somebody who has been rescuing children from bonded labour for more than 40 years, this film is based on a consolidation of several stories I have encountered,” said Mr. Satyarthi, after the screening.
Long time coming
The child rights activist wanted a filmmaker to make a movie on the issue since the start of the new millennium. “I spoke with many producers but they said what’s the use of putting money on a film like this, which won’t have returns,” said Mr. Satyarthi. With filmmakers Brahmanand S. Siingh and Tanvi Jain, along with writers Kamlesh Kunti Singh and Prakash Jha, the film was finally completed this year, and has done the rounds of a few film festivals like the Singapore South Asian International Film Festival.
Mr. Satyarthi is a firm believer in the influential capability of cinema. “Revolution starts with awareness and I think films are the most powerful tool to educate people,” he said. The activist also requested the audience to not buy goods made by children and to report cases of child labour to the helpline mentioned at the end of the film. During the end credits, the film displays documentary footage of Mr. Satyarthi and the work he has been doing over the last four decades.
Alongside child actors, Aarti Jha (as Jhalki) and Goraksh Sakpal (as Babu), the film also features Divya Dutta, Sanjay Suri, Govind Namdeo, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Joy Sengupta, and will be released commercially on September 27.