The May Day as we call it is also the International Labour Day and while everyone of us remembers this only because we enjoy a national holiday, there is little knowledge amongst people as to why we need to celebrate the contribution of laborers and workers in the country.

International Labour Organisation (ILO), is an agency of the United Nations that deals with Labour issues and works towards raising standards of laborers across the world. ILO celebrates Labour Day with rallies and demonstrations over the globe, and spreads awareness about a string of issues such as eradicating forced labour and child labour. India has been tackling with the grave issue of child labour for years now and it is hard to bring awareness of such issues.

Stanley Ka Dabba, Nanhe Jaisalmer, I am Kalam and Boot Polish movie posters
Stanley Ka Dabba, Nanhe Jaisalmer, I am Kalam and Boot Polish movie posters


Thus a medium like cinema always works wonders when it comes to raising an issue like this. Bollywood has tried hard enough as it stood-up to the responsibility for this. Informed film makers such as Prakash Arora, Amole Gupte, Nitesh Tiwari took the mantle of presenting us with films that deal with child labour in a subtle yet hard-hitting manner.

The first Bollywood film to deal with the grave issue of child labour was the 1954 film Boot Polish. This Raj Kapoor production, directed by Prakash Arora dealt with the story of two orphans Belu (Baby Naaz) and Bhola (Ratan Kumar) who are forced into begging on streets by their aunt. Further in the story, a bootlegger named John Chacha (David Abraham) teaches them self-respect and to work for a living instead of begging. This was one of the most honest films made in Hindi cinema and could still give you the chills with its story.

In recent times, efficiently bridging the gap of a docu-drama and commercial movies, films like Stanley Ka Dabba and Chillar Party made sure that they gave you a thought-provoking entertainer. Be it the little Fatka from Chillar Party who is a car-cleaner or the innocent Stanley, both characters were powerful enough to convey the hardships of child labour and how conveniently we turn a blind eye to this issue.

Also films like Nanhe Jaisalmer and I Am Kalam were a mirror to the society for how we are killing the aspirations of these underage workers. I Am Kalam almost made me cringe by showing how a 12-year-old Chotu is a tea vendor and food server at the Dhaba but aims to make it big in life and is hell bent on learning. The poverty stricken family of Chotu is often shown using lines such as ‘Schools are not in our destiny’. Even commercial films such as the Vidya Balan starrer Kahaani gave a glimpse of how young underprivileged kids are forced to take up jobs such as tea-vendors.

It is commendable that these films made the effort to reach out to the audiences with meaningful content without thinking about their commercial value. Bollywood is a huge medium and even one film can do a lot of difference. This labor day, make sure that you celebrate the day by respecting our labor rather than just enjoying it as a holiday.

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