The Prayas Challenge

IMG_0579Prayas is an NGO based in India, for children. They work with children who have been in various bad situations, like child labour, sex trafficking, homelessness, etc. saving them from it and giving them an opportunity to grow within a safe community and achieve their dreams. Through various drives, they save these children and bring them back to the various homes around various cities in India and provide them with food, shelter, care, medical needs and skill developing education.

During my trip to New Delhi with RMIT, I got the amazing opportunity to work with Prayas in order to make a video to spread awareness about children who were under their care and had been saved from sex trafficking. I chose this particular topic because as of this year, according to census, Delhi is one of the largest hubs for child prostitution and trafficking. This is because of the high demand of children for domestic labour in Delhi which leaves a lot of them in the clutches of people who sell them into the market. Being an upcoming issue, I wanted to help in every way possible. This video is meant to spread awareness in Melbourne and is hence, tailored to cater the market here and not the very different audience present in India. The idea is to generate help and volunteers from developed countries who are in a much better position to help us overcome this problem we are facing today.

Working on this project, I had to make sure that I was suiting not only the Australian audience with their cultural sensitivities but also the needs and cultural background of my Indian clients. Initially this proved to be a difficult task when I gave it thought, but discussion with the client made the issue much easier to deal with and solve. I have discussed the differences in culture in another article and just lightly touch on my decisions to overcome these for my project here.

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Indians love long videos, the idea of a short documentary, only 2 minutes is quite difficult for them to understand. What’s the point, why not make it longer, more detailed? The point here though was that my audience belongs to a community which strives on short videos today. The shorter the better. No one really has time to watch a forty minute video talking about the hardships faced in another country anymore. Discussing this, we decided on a short length, longer than my suggested 1 minute, but we put a full stop at 3 minutes.

To preserve both cultural sensitivity as well as further exploitation of the victims, we decided against using any faces in the video and hence all shots were captured keeping that in mind at all times. Use of imagery collected from around India, bluish cold colour and sad music hint at the story behind this poetic documentary.

Even the audio collected has been through volunteers, repeating what the children told us as they were very intimidated by the camera and microphones, which we decided against using then. I am now sending my film to the clients and await further feedback. While editing the film though I kept thinking of everything I have learnt from that trip and have been thinking a lot about these differences we have in culture…

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Emotional Attyachar in Delhi

Delhi

It was a cold day when we landed in Delhi, and it was the day the emotions began to run high. Before I even got home, I found out that Nina’s bag had been opened at the airport and some lenses taken out. After a long trying day, she got them back but that was just the start. The trip saw almost everyone coming down with Delhi Belly, being homesick, Nick, Kajeera and Rebecca lost their cameras in an auto, Nick fell ill on his first LIIT and Shakun had her camera stolen. All of this in the space of five days! What was I doing? Helping! It was my hometown after all and I felt it was my duty to take care of everyone.

Though a lot of unfortunate events took place, it came with it’s good times. The city was different from what we had experienced in Mumbai. Gone were the locals asking for photos only to be replaced with stares from a distance, which wasn’t half as bad. It makes me wonder though. Mumbai is the fastest city in India. Close to Goa and home to Bollywood and the slums, it is a hub for international tourists, but Delhiites just handle being around tourists so much better. They were smarter too though. Gone were the nice, fair taxi men, only to be replaced by everyone trying to overcharge everyone. At one point, I was ready to shoot myself. Having said that, we Delhiites take hospitality very seriously and that is what my Australian friends found here. Whatever the problem, everyone wanted to help in every way possible. It was shocking really to see how much time one was willing to spare just to help. Big cultural difference right there!

Delhi, as Shakun so rightly described it is a monument, not just a city of monuments. With so much culture and history in one city, we were transported back in time as we roamed the streets and enjoys cold beers on spacious rooftop bars. Laid back and the city of the elite is how I have always thought of Delhi.

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Here, we met students of VIPS, a media institute in Delhi. They were studying film and photography like us. What surprised me was that it was very different, the way we thought and went about the process of filming. While our course has always given us the creative freedom to do as we please and find our own style, the same was not true for them. They were taught rules and theories and were asked to function in a certain manner. The other thing was the lack of foresight. They did not think planning and pre-production to be as important as the production at all, which was where we had major problems later on, when we could not get enough footage. But, I noticed that Bollywood functions in a very similar way.

The thing about these students though was that they were the most accommodating people I have ever known and were very good with their technical knowledge. They were good at figuring things out, finding easy solutions or what we call in Hindi ‘Jugaad’. They were much better at the camerawork than me, and always took the lead on helping everyone through everything. They were shy at the start but we all warmed up to each other very quickly and it was tremendous fun working together. I personally felt like I had the best of both worlds.

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The project I ended up working on, in India was on Prayas, a juvenile childrens’ NGO. The topic I chose was based on sex trafficking amongst the children and how Prayas was working to save them. This was another emotional journey we all went through together. It was hard. As I have mentioned before, being an Indian, I never paid any attention to the street children and on occasion have even been rude to them sadly. This trip, this project, being around friends who saw it differently, I was pulled under. I had to rethink everything I thought I had known in the past and I cried. I cried for them and I cried for me, the person I had been. It is crazy how much can change with a little change of perspective. Prayas was life changing, and I want to help change their lives…