When Slumdog Millionaire won Academy Awards nearly a decade ago, the film’s director, Danny Boyle, was criticised for presenting India in a poor light by showing the slums of Mumbai.
But a short film based on those slums will now be screened at Kenya’s Slum Film Festival, which is probably the world’s only film festival promoting films on slums. Directed by Jitendra Borhade, an alumnus of Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), the 13-minute-long Vaimanik (The Pilot), is set against the backdrop of the slums adjoining Mumbai airport.
The film revolves around the life of 12-year-old Yakku, son of a truck driver and a homemaker, who dreams of becoming an “aeroplane driver”. With notebooks full of drawings of aircraft, Yakku is seen gazing at the sky, trying to catch a glimpse of every plane flying over the slum roofs — all showing his desire to fly one day.
Shot within three days, Vaimanik is Borhade’s second directorial venture. The idea for this film came to him when he was a young boy, said the Mumbai-based director. “When I saw aeroplanes take flight, I, too, dreamed of becoming a pilot. Somewhere, the seed of this idea was nourished and its fruit is this film. I wanted to make it while studying at SPPU five years ago, but had to put it on hold due to lack of time,” said Borhade, who was also the film’s cinematographer.
The film was shot mainly in Asalfa village near Ghatkopar, in the suburbs of Mumbai. Students at the nearby Sainath High School played supporting roles in the film. Borhade conducted special training with select school students before casting them.
The Slum Film Festival was started in Nairobi in 2011. The theme of the festival this year is ‘The New Environment’. Borhade said he did not know about the film festival at first. “It was a purely accidental discovery. It was news that a film festival only screened movies on the lives of people in slums,” he said.
Earlier this year, the film won the best film award at the Department of Media and Communication Studies National Film Festival in Pune.