Rat Race, A documentary on Mumbai's professional rat killers, is among the six films in the world to be selected for the cannes Co-Production Challenge
Miriam Chandy Menacherry is terrified of rats. Yet the 35-year-old filmmaker is busy documenting one of Mumbai's most bizarre professions rat killing.
The idea behind the documentary, Miriam says, is to put a face to the rat menace, which is a startling reality in the metropolitan city of Mumbai.
57-year-old Behram Harda is one such face. Behram has spent 35 years of his life working as a supervisor in the BMC's Pest Control Department.
At a typical recruitment drive, candidates have to go through a written test (all candidates must have cleared their standard 10 exams) followed by a physical test in 3 rounds, to test them for speed and stamina. The candidate here is carrying a 50kg sack
"Like so many people who come to the city with dreams of making it big in the glamour industry, Behram too came here to try his luck.
But his father insisted that he take up a government job, and he has been serving the city since," says Miriam, adding that Behram's job involves keeping track of every rat that's ever been killed in Mumbai.
Miriam's interest in the subject was roused when she read reports on the rigorous recruitment procedure for rat killers, which includes a written test.
Rat killers are unique to Mumbai and the BMC has specially created the team to tackle the menace, as rats are carriers of disease including cholera and leptospirosis.
Controlling the rat population is thus critical to maintaining health and hygiene standards in a city.
Rat killers are expected to kill 30 rats every night. "It's not that rats cannot be trapped or killed with rat poison.
But the rat killers, who use sticks to knock the rats dead, are seen as the most effective option," explains Miriam.
Despite being in its filming stage, Rat Race has been selected for the Co-Production Challenge at the Cannes Film Festival.
The idea is that if the film wins, it will receive better funding, which in turn will result in a "better finished film." In the past, films that have won have gone on to bag prestigious awards at the Golden Globes and BAFTA.
Miriam believes that what got the jury interested in the subject was that it reflects a developing economy and its issues.
"It's not just about India Shining, but what goes on behind the scenes to make it shine," says Miriam, adding, "I hope that as a fallout of the film, rat killers get positive attention for the important, but thankless work they do, while Mumbai sleeps."