Blinded by the Diwali sparklers that lend the sound and spectacle to the festival of lights, it is easy to forget the little nimble fingers that assembled those firecrackers, often working in dark and dangerous conditions. To highlight the plight of the child labour engaged in the various fireworks factories, Zee News, as part of its corporate social responsibility drive, will be airing a film on child labour in its programme ‘Zara Sochiye’. Conceptualised by Bates 141, the film has been directed by Akash Nelson, Producer-Director, Fifth Element.
The team that worked on the film comprised Bates 141 team of Sonal Dabral, National Creative Director; Kunal Gill, Creative Director; and Bhawna Gupta, Art Director. Gill, Gupta and Arijit Sengupta were the scriptwriters, while Sanjeev Gauba, Ayan Banik and Rashmi Kargwal were responsible for the servicing.
Speaking about the film, Rohit Kumar, Marketing Head, Zee News, said, “Child labour is a prevalent social issue in India. Despite there being a law to curb this practice, child labour continues unabated in various professions. Diwali is the festival of firecrackers, which are provided by an industry that engages child labour in large numbers. Therefore, we wanted to create awareness about this issue to a telling effect.”
“We wanted to effectively use the ‘Zara Sochiye’ brand philosophy to create awareness amongst the common man and make him think about his rights, duties and responsibilities. We want to mobilise the citizens to think and act as more socially- responsible individuals to such issues. The communication reinforces both the reprehensible practice of child labour and danger to a child involved in this chore,” he added.
Kunal Gill, Creative Director, Bates 141, said, “The brief we got from Zee News was to extend the baseline of ‘Zara Sochiye’ to highlight plight of child labourers. We did not resort to the usual shock-provoke method to sensitise people, instead we presented a scene, wherein the child tries to convince a potential customer to buy his hand-made crackers. We tried to show how these children have inadvertently lost their innocence. It is sad to see that they think that this is how life ought to be.”
The film has been shot from the point of view of a would-be customer, with the boy selling firecrackers looking straight into the camera all the time. In this way, he speaks directly to the viewer’s mind and heart.
The film revolves around a young boy of 12-13 years, sitting on a pavement selling firecrackers that he has made with his own hands. He seems to have leant the tricks-of-trade very quickly and tells his potential customer that the crackers are of excellent quality. The reason is that once he had damaged one cracker by mistake for which his boss had thrashed him and kept him without food for two days. Because of this he learnt to make crackers that would never fail to explode. He further says that his burnt hands are testimony to his expertise. The child is unaware of his lost innocence and tells the potential customer that he should buy the crackers as they would make the customer’s children happy. The film ends with a thought-provoking voiceover: ‘Chalis hazaar zindigiyo ko andhere may jhonkh kar, kitni roshan banayege aap apni diwali? (Thrusting 40,000 lives into darkness, how prosperous can your Diwali be?)
Speaking on the shooting experience, Akash Nelson, Producer-Director, Fifth Element, remarked, “The plight of child labour can be seamlessly woven into a film only when it is backed by extensive research. I touched base with Jamghat, an NGO involved in teaching kids to act and paint in schools in the evening. When I spoke to these children about their circumstances, I was really moved. I got the protagonist of the film to interact with these children so that he empathises with the cause. We made a brief of his life so that he gets into the skin of the character.”
Initiatives on social issues not only create awareness, but also evoke a sense of responsibility amongst the people. The onus of transforming a society sans child labour can be conferred on the media. However, whether media fulfills this responsibility is subject to its will.