Truth and talent on Mumbai's streets

Jul 09, 2013, 02:51 IST | Kanika Sharma

Khalid Mohamed, film critic and journalist, looks at truth straight in its face with his new documentary, Little Big People, while capturing the lives of eight street children of the city

It’s intriguing when Khalid Mohamed says, “In a documentary, one doesn’t need to compromise”, while he, being equally synonymous with Bollywood. His previous project, Last Irani Chai lamented the dire conditions in which the fabled Irani tea cafes are mired and struggling to survive.

Saurav, the cricketer (extreme left) with his brothers. Pics Courtesy/ Karan Desai

Taking note that a producer is another agent of interference, this time, the journalist, film critic, scriptwriter and editor decided to hit the roads with his assistant and photographer, Karan Desai. “I had started with a tightrope walker called Chhoti in Panvel. Her acrobatic skill and agile body amazed me, making me ponder that if she had been in Russia, she’d been a star by now. But here, people like her had no money to feed themselves”, says a patient and congenial director.

Khalid Mohamed, the director with Hussain, a Hip Hop dancer

The 52-minute duration of the film was a justifiable result that Mohamed came upon, after the earlier stipulated 15-minute footage to the matter. Around 10-years-old Chhoti became the driving factor for Mohamed as he kept on discovering talented children all over Mumbai.

Chhoti, the tightrope walker

 “There was one boy who sold peacock feathers at Hanging Gardens,” recalls Mohamed. “He could speak in fourteen languages and make a sales’ pitch in Iranian, Italian, Spanish or Arabic. It is marvellous how Ravi picked up these languages from his grandmother and not a school.”

The compassionate undertone in Mohamed’s voice becomes apparent when he begins to relate the eight lives he has weaved in: “there is the harmonium-playing boy who lives in a tarpaulin structure with his family near Rangsharda (Bandra); or Shabbo who can dance to Chikni Chameli and aspires to be in Bollywood but practically, lives by her wits near Haji Ali.

There was one theatre actor who we found in Amol Gupte’s workshop but drowned in the sea while going for a swim. Eventually, we also found out a Hip-Hop gang of four to five boys who collect money by dancing on the streets. Lastly, there’s a boy who plays cricket and has won many inter state competitions but the gold medals elude him.

He doesn’t even have proper equipment, and his father is a hospital worker.” Confiding and amused, the journalist in him comments how it is like going back to the days when he would scout for human interest stories by tracking children in the local train from VT to different destinations.

While the film might thrall you with umpteen talent one can find on the ever-buzzing streets of Mumbai, Mohamed tries “not to sensationalise” issues such as the fact that many girls on the streets are actually boys, raised as the fairer sex to evoke sympathy, or that one of the aspiring child artistes is going blind while he doesn’t know about it.

On a concluding note, Mohamed shares that he has many dreams such as sending it to international festivals, carrying on with the second part and helping the kids as much as he can. 

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