Pune, 14th November 2022: Most of us have become blind to child labour around us. Baitullah is a short film that is sure to open your eyes. Picturised on a little boy named Baitullah working at a tea stall in the city, it poses the question to the viewer. “What does this child need to do, to become like you?” A question that is met with awkward silence in the film, but hopes to ignite a conversation amongst viewers and the more fortunate.
Just the fact that you can read this article, makes you more fortunate. Millions of children across the world, and especially in India, are exploited and denied their childhood every day. They are kept out of classrooms and pushed into earning a daily wage for their family or a tout. Due to poverty, lack of awareness or just plain neglect and apathy. Most are hidden away in sweatshops making shoes, jewellery and firecrackers. But some are in plain sight. ‘Chottu’ at your friendly neighbourhood tea stall or lunch place.
Directed, written and produced by Jitendra Rai (M/S Matheno Films), the main protagonist is played by child artist Om Kanojiya, supported by Ishtiyak Khan and Vipin Sharma. The film has been nominated and selected at 85+ international and national film festivals and has already won 26 awards.
Speaking on the evolution of the film, the director, Jitendra Rai said, “As a film maker I look at the world around me with my eyes wide open. I couldn’t ignore the child labour I saw around me. But I was also left with a sense of helplessness. As a filmmaker, I chose to capture this helplessness, the silent appeal these children have in their eyes when they look at people better-off than them.”
Rai adds, “This helplessness turned into hope, when I saw the work that is being done by organisations like Mukul Madhav Foundation. I am also grateful for their support of this film.”
Speaking on behalf of Mukul Madhav Foundation, Ritu Chhabria Managing Trustee, said “This film asks a question which started us on our journey working with marginalised and vulnerable children. How could each child enjoy the things we take for granted in our lives? We set out to put things in place, one small block at a time.”
Established in 1999, Mukul Madhav Foundation works with communities across India, uplifting the less fortunate with hope and dignity. Their work with children, especially those vulnerable to exploitation, assault and trafficking, is slowly tilting the scale at the grassroots. Supporting children with initiatives in education, nutrition and mental health. Offering a helpline, counsellors, and legal aid for children. Rescuing and rehabilitating exploited children, and then reintegrating them back into the mainstream. But even more importantly, strengthening the community. Giving parents and youth access to healthcare, sanitation, skill development and employment. Giving each of them a sense of dignity. With the belief that for children to be safe, first their community should feel secure financially and emotionally.