In this exclusive conversation with Brahmanand S. Siingh, director of Jhalki, he reveals how the movie was conceived and how the life of Nobel Prize Winner Kailash Satyarthi played a very important role in it.
The trailer seemed dark & informative, what led you to chose the topic of ‘child slavery’ to make Jhalki?
We’ve been seeing child slavery since childhood but no one notices. At the time when I became aware of it and got to know Kailash Satyarthi’s work, he’s a Nobel Prize winner who has saved 86,000 children through his work, following him raised my curiosity. That time I penned this story along with Prakash Jha. Even though the backdrop of the film is dark, we have tried to keep the story entertaining. The film as a change is a different genre in itself.
How ‘real’ the kids are in your film?
Very real! For the research material, we have gone through Kailash Satyarthi’s files and those are filled with real-life incidents. We made sure to keep the story and backdrop as authentic as we can. Now the film aims to reach to as many people as possible. Around 6 crore kids don’t even understand what childhood is, 15 crore is the number of kids worldwide and hence it’s not just about India. This is humanity’s problem.
How did you finalise the casting of kids in the film? Did you go theatre to cast or you picked actors from the location you shot the film?
We tried to cast kids from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar. We instructed the Casting Director to chose the kids who had the accent we were looking for. We shortlisted 28 kids from 150 kids and then 4 from there were finalised. A sweet coincidence happened, when we got to know our lead kid is from Bihar but we found her in Mumbai.
How did Boman Irani come on-board for the film?
The moment Boman heard the script, he told that he doesn’t want to hear anything more and he’s on. Though short role, he is playing the role of Kailash Satyarthi in the film.
There have been times where dark movies hadn’t got their due in the past, do you think Bollywood has changed since then and will it accept Jhalki?
Bollywood is a market which will only grow if you make a certain kind of films. You’ll have to make such a film to get them accepted in future. There’s a story of 2 salesmen, who were sent on a hill to sell shoes. One of them sent a report saying no prospect here because no one wears shoes. But the 2nd one said, “It’s an amazing opportunity because no one wears shoes.” So, if a film like Joker was made by an Indian director, everyone would have dismissed it by labelling it as arty. But someone from outside India made it, and it released in India doing such amazing numbers at the box office. The marketing team did such a wonderful job by asking people to see it in a way, labelled it as a masterpiece.
You said you’ve kept the story light-hearted but do you think it will appeal the kids?
During the trial shows, we’ve got an amazing response from the kids. Just like a Salman Khan film gets ‘seetis & taalis’ from his fans, Jhalki, too, is getting the same at the schools we’ve shown the film. We’ve got amazing feedback from the principals of those schools as well. A very interesting thing is, kids are taking their adults to watch the movie.