Updated: January 17, 2021 5:33:54 pm
Even as 13-year-old Krithik battles autism every day, his single mother is further reaffirmed in her belief that the world doesn’t treat differently abled children in quite the same way as it does normal ones. Vivek Singh, a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, has a special talent with numbers. Another, Arav, was born to a family of doctors who realised he was “different” early on and had him work with special educators and therapists to a level where he now boasts better social skills than many his age. In 2019, documentary filmmaker Shreedhar BS and his crew began filming the three children as they led their daily lives. After several months of filming, they have come up with a documentary titled ‘In Our World’, which will premiere at the Indian Panorama of the 51st IFFI in Goa on January 18, as part of the official selection in the non-feature film category.
“There was a gentleman who used to come to our house to teach music to my children and I came to know that he also imparts music lessons to specially-abled children. He told me that music calms them down and has a positive influence on their minds. This made me want to know more and understand these children better,” says Shreedhar, a former creative director for the National Geographic Channel and Fox International Channels, among others. As he delved into the world of autism, Shreedhar realised that most parents struggle because their children are “not easily accepted by our society and are greatly misunderstood”.
He recalls instances when, when parents, visiting parks with their little ones, kept them away from autistic children fearing that the latter might cause them harm. “This made me want to go deeper (into their world) to understand how these children lead their lives, how they face the society in general and what they are doing to bring about a change in the mindset of people who see them from outside. The objective behind making the film was to raise awareness,” says the filmmaker. The trailer checks out all the lyrical elements and aesthetics of the film, which combines the lives of three special children to script an inspiring story of hope.
Shreedhar says during his research, he met a number of parents, who he said were in denial about what their children were faced with. In most cases, the parents tried working on their children’s conditions, thereby losing out on crucial years when therapeutic intervention could have helped develop their skills, he said. “If the child was not making eye contact or speaking normally, the parents would first discuss it with their extended families who, as it turned out in many cases, would say, ‘You were like this as a child as well and did not speak normally till the age of five, so relax’. What seemed to happen is that most of these parents wasted the formative years of their children trying to deal with their conditions themselves instead of taking them to a therapist or specialist. In many cases, the parents were superstitious, believing godmen could cure their children. These things only prove to be damaging for these children,” he says.
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Weeks before filming began, the crew would visit the homes of the three special children to familiarise themselves with their world. This helped the children respond naturally when cameras and other equipment were brought out. The comfort level that was painstakingly established helped the makers capture candid moments of these children at play or their parents and family members at work. “I shot scenes like one where a woman says, ‘Your child came and hugged me and I was scared’. What the child did was simply expressing his affection but the woman did not understand that. There are times when families don’t want to be in a lift with an autistic child. Then again, there are moments of pure bliss seeing these children openly and sincerely expressing their emotions,” says Shreedhar.
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