Ten-year-old Apu does anything he can to get out of tuition at 5pm, even going so far as stepping in front of a car barreling down the street. His parents are worried, and can’t seem to figure out why his grades are slipping. What could have been wrong? Apu’s constant fear reverberates throughout the film — and that’s what, say Ruchir Arun, the director of 5 O’Clock Accidents, and its producer Ashwini Mishra, most victims of child sexual abuse live with.
5 O’Clock Accidents, unlike most films that aim to educate its audience on sexual abuse, is targeted towards parents rather than children. “Parents need to be aware of certain signs their child may exhibit,” says Arun, adding, “They need to open a channel of communication between them and their child and talk about these issues.” In the film, although Apu hates what’s happening to him, he is not even aware that his abuse is wrong or that he’s a victim. His tuition teacher, well-educated, articulate and even charming man, is welcome in their home; he chats with his father over a cup of tea.
He’s not the image of a predator one usually has. He’s not, as Mishra puts it, “some creepy rickshaw-wallah”. But that’s exactly the point. “Abuse happens everywhere,” Mishra says. “India’s middle-class, the emerging face of New India, think it can’t happen in their neighbourhood. We wanted to attack this misconception with our film.”
The setting of a well-off family was also chosen because both Arun and Mishra didn’t want parents to think that, because it wasn’t a familiar environment, this couldn’t happen to their child. “I’ve noticed that upper-class people are not able to relate to more lower-class settings, while the opposite is not true,” says Mishra.
Mishra, who works with Nirman Foundation, a Kolkata-based NGO that works on spreading awareness and ameliorating social issues, had been sitting on the idea for this film for years. A few months ago, he reached out to Arun, whom he met in college, and they decided they had enough time to go ahead with it.
After talking to many survivors of child sexual abuse, and trying to understand their experiences, they crafted a story that they felt would resonate with a lot of people. 5 O’Clock Accidents, which has been awarded and featured in several film festivals across India, was released on the internet recently, aiming to reach out to more people.