Tamil Nadu

Initiating change through the silver screen

Some stories are told to inform, inspire and initiate positive change. The independent film Lion falls into the category. Earlier this year, the movie made its debut in theatres across the world, narrating the journey of Saroo, a child who is carried away from his home on an empty train. The beautifully directed drama has contributed to raising the profile of a phenomenon that was probably little known among Western audiences — when Indian children leave their home, they invariably board a train. Many of them bear the burden of abandonment, some others seek a refuge far away from violence and domestic abuse. Poverty does not have a direct connection but is, unsurprisingly, a trigger, statistics say.

Railway Children is among the local organisations striving to give India’s lost children a ticket to their hometown. Country director at the NGO, Navin Sellaraju, said that a combined effort with the Indian Railways has reached 25 railway stations over the last 20 years.

Mr. Sellaraju stressed the importance of challenging society’s perceptions and attitudes towards streetchildren. “These kids must be viewed with a certain eye, as each of them has a really unique story of resilience. All of us need to empathise with the child to help him/her move from a situation of isolation to togetherness, from suffering to purpose and from helplessness to control.”

Campaign launched

Meanwhile, an initiative has been sparking social action even before the movie was released in January. The producers of the movie launched a campaign called #LionHeart in a bid to magnify the resonance of the story on a global scale. Railway Children, Magic Bus and Childline India were chosen as key partners of the initiative. Anuradha Chandran, head of corporate partnerships, Railway Children, said: “The producers were aware of the power of the film; they knew it could change lives. We were then approached to create a charity campaign and started working together.”

Ms. Chandran added that the interesting thing is that the initiative wants the viewer to have the chance to do something and create an impact on children’s lives. The campaign, which has been developed considering social media and engagement of existing donors, is in fact bringing new people in touch with charitable actors, thus allowing each of them to give their own contribution. Most of the donations are now coming from the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. “They start understanding that every five minutes a child lands at a railway station. That could be another Saroo, and not necessarily will there be a happy ending [Saroo is safely adopted by a family as a young boy].”

The same countries along with many others have been seeing a wave of generosity and active participation brought in by the movie. According to Ms. Chandran, people are starting to take a lot of personal initiatives to be able to make a difference. “Fired up by the message of Lion, their fund-raising impetus comes in many shapes and forms,” she comments. “From running a marathon to climbing mountains in Scandinavia, from holding charity dinners to hosting screenings of movie in small towns...People just want to do something about it.”

For a charity of its size, the £1,50,000 Railway Children has raised in the past months mean greater visibility and a new opportunity to be sustainable. Chief executive of Railway Children Terina Keene, expressed pride and hope in the sentiment that Lion is driving.

The #LionHeart campaign has raised over a quarter of a million dollars overall for the three charities so far. The website lionmovie.com will be open till December.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 6:59:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/initiating-change-through-the-silver-screen/article19110980.ece

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