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Stoking empathy in slum kids

Saturday, 25 July 2009 - 8:38am IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: dna
With the idea of taking children’s cinema to children from poor backgrounds, the school in Maruthi Seva Nagar was selected, considering its proximity to slums.

Bright-eyed, curious and giggly, Sonya F, sitting on a tiny yellow plastic chair kept saying, “My dog film, my dog film.” Watching Halo, a film about a seven-year-old and her lost pup named ‘Halo’, Sonya’s favorite character was the dog. “I like D-O-G,” she said, proudly spelling it for us. The film was screened at Cecilia English High School, in Maruthi Seva Nagar as part of the day-long Sadak Chhap film fest organised by SPRIHA — Society of Promotion and Inculcation of Human Aspiration.

With the idea of taking children’s cinema to children from poor backgrounds, the school in Maruthi Seva Nagar was selected, considering its proximity to slums. Most of the students are from slums. 

The packed hall was noisy, on a Friday afternoon. Children in the age group of five to 16 sat together watching two films back-to-back. “Using films as a medium, SPRIHA aims to inculcate “empathy among children,” said Pankaj Dubey, Founder, SPRIHA, hence the film fest. He also expressed his concern on how these children miss out on children’s films since they cannot attend children’s film fests and “these films are hardly telecast on TV,” he said. Sadak Chhap, is an effort to take cinema to the underprivileged children.

And it got a thumbs up from the kids too. “The concept of showing films in school is good,” said 13-year-old Janani. Another 13-year-old Asma said, “We like the story.” The conversation then diverted to stray dogs and how they are often ill treated. The girls felt sad but Rukhsar Banu tried to explain why it happens, she said, “Some people don’t like animals, they avoid keeping pets. Those people harm strays too.”

She and her group of friends said they normally ‘treat’ such dogs “with biscuits and buns.” The film inspired them all and they all wanted to keep pets.

Asked if they liked the selection of Halo and Lilkee, the students nodded in agreement. It was a fun Friday at school for these kids who had a first of its kind experience. “Films at school, I like it,” said 14-year-old Arshad. For them it was a Friday well spent

Firing their imagination
SPRIHA— Society for the promotion and inculcation of Human Aspirations is an NGO with a vision to develop 'empathy' and 'sensitivity' in children by 'igniting their imagination'. It organises creative workshops and film festivals named Sadak Chhap every year for children living in urban slums and in villages.

The rationale behind the film fest is to take children's cinema to the doorsteps of those who cannot afford to go and watch them in the multiplexes.

This festival is being organised in association with the Children Film Society of India. After the screening the participating children  get an opportunity to discuss the films and subsequently paint the images appearing in their minds.




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