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Rodents on the run

At 16, he dreamt of becoming a Bollywood dancer but instead, Behram Harda ended up supervising the counting of dead rats in the Pest Control Department of Mumbai. At 60, Harda’s dream of appearing on the big screen is about to come true with The Rat Race — releasing in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi — of which he is a part of.

The Rat Race is a true-life account of the city’s rat killers. Every night as the rest of the city sleeps, young boys armed with torches and sticks set out to bring back 30 dead rats that are counted every morning.

The rats are then disposed in the Deonar dumping ground where they are either incinerated or just dumped. The filmmakers could not capture this aspect as they were refused permission to shoot there. Many of the boys in the occupation are educated and aspire to become Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officers someday.

Dark, disturbing yet humourous, the entire film was shot over two years amidst the city’s changing seasons and circumstances of rat killers. The Rat Race captivated the audience in Cannes where it was first narrated to an international jury and then had its world premiere in Amsterdam. But due to budget constraints and the lack of endorsement, it couldn’t be released in India before.

Filmmaker Miriam Chandy Menacherry who documented the story says, “The theatre release in India is an emotional moment as although the film captivated audiences abroad, it is here in my own country that I want the film to be seen.”

Bollywood veteran Naseeruddin Shah was present at the preview of the documentary to extend his support. Also present at the event was actor-comedian Jaaved Jaaferi who said that the idea behind the initiative was to bring together filmmakers and corporate houses that believe the documentary genre has potential waiting to be tapped.

Who moved my cheese?
For every person in this city of about 14 million, a BMC study reveals there are six rats. And there is a proposal pending in the civic body to introduce the post of night rat killers even in the suburbs of Mumbai where the rat population is expanding at a rapid pace. 

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