Film on student harassed over R-Day participation

A story of lost opportunities because of a college’s inflexible stand over the attendance shortfall of a student who was away participating in the Republic Day Parade is set to become a feature film.

Shalaka Kurulkar, Birla College in Kalyan, director Rajeev Subramanyam
Coming soon: The banner put up next to Birla College in Kalyan (West) by film director Rajeev Subramanyam; (inset) Shalaka Kurulkar, the student whose story Subramanyam’s upcoming film will tell. Pics/Navneet Barhate¬†

Shalaka Kurulkar, a student of Birla College in Kalyan, will play herself in the film undertaken by Bollywood director Rajeev Subramanyam.
The theme of the film, which is titled ‘Shalaka’, is the unending harassment faced by the lead character from her college, jeopardising her dream of a career in the air force.

Subramanyam learnt about Shalaka from newspapers and the electronic media and contacted her father, Senior Police Inspector Deepak Kurulkar of the Thane crime branch.

After Shalaka’s father gave Subramanyam the green signal for the film, the director announced the movie, even pasting a poster about it last week in front of Birla College, a multi-faculty institution of higher education in Kalyan (West).

“I was shocked to read the news about Shalaka and I decided to make the film,” Subramanyam said. “The name of the film is Shalaka. The shooting will start next month at several locations. The theme is how a reputable college is playing with the future of a student.”

The 20-year-old Shalaka lives opposite Birla College. In 2008, she took admission in Std XI in the college and joined the National Cadet Corps (NCC).

She felt NCC would be just the right preparation towards achieving her dream of joining the air force. After attending NCC camps in Wadala and Pune in 2008, she was selected to participate in the Republic Day Parade of January 26, 2009, in New Delhi.

As a result, she could not attend lectures for a month as she was away for the Republic Day Parade selection process. She could not even appear for the terminal examinations that year.

According to Shalaka, she submitted all required documents supporting the reason given by her for absence from lectures but the college did not allow her to appear for the missed terminal examination for a long time.

Her father said he tried to reason with the college but it did not help.

“As a parent I contacted the college, but the college management told me that my girl did not have the required (75 per cent) attendance and so she could not appear for the exam,” said the police officer.

Finally she was allowed to move to Std XII, but the harassment did not end there. She was denied a hall ticket for the HSC exam, and it was only after much correspondence with the education department that Shalaka managed to get the hall ticket from the education board as a special case, just before the exam.
She gave her Std XII in February 2010, but the college withheld her result. After running from pillar to post for three months to get justice, she finally sat on a hunger strike at Azad Maidan on August 15, 2010. She also met education minister Balasaheb Thorat.

After 10 days, she ended her strike when the college agreed to give her the result.

As Shalaka got only 10 days to prepare for the HSC exam, she got only 52 per cent marks, which was not enough to get admission in any other college.

“As if this were not enough, I was shocked when Vice-Principal Jayant Pansare said at a college function that I was not from his college,” Shalaka said.

According to Shalaka, her teachers and principal and other college staff do not behave in a friendly way with her. She said even her fellow students avoid talking to her these days as they fear that the college will punish them if they do so.

The other side
Former principal of Birla College Dr Naresh Chandra, who is now the pro-vice-chancellor of the University of Mumbai, declined to comment on the issue. “I can not comment on the film issue,” Chandra said.

The current principal, Dr Prgya Joshi, said: “I am not aware about the incident. I don’t even know who Shalaka is as I have taken charge as principal only two months ago.¬†

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