Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah and comedian Jaaved Jaffrey have joined hands to support the documentary The Rat Race, based on Mumbai’s Rat Killers. At the preview of the internationally acclaimed documentary, Naseer says, “What fiction can’t do to help a social cause, a documentary can.”
He adds that, though he was a huge part of the 70’s new wave movement in Indian cinema, even today 40 of his films remain in cans, never to be released. “It is tough to make films- even bad ones as they need time, money and energy. I am not sure if the audience makes a connection between fiction and their own reality via commercial films. Documentaries are real and difficult to run away from. They reflect today’s society. Few filmmakers who make documentaries out of choice. We surely need films that reflect our times or else if someone were to look up films in 2012, 10 years from now, perhaps all they would find is films like Housefull 2!”
Jaaved, who launched the Indian Documentary Foundation, is hopeful that they can sustain this effort to get more documentaries into the public space and in commercial theatres. Director Miriam Chandy Menacherry, took two years to document the stories of rat killers who set out with sticks and have to bring 30 dead rats daily to earn their Rs11,000 wage monthly. “Although the film captivated an audience in Cannes and then premiered to packed cinemas in Amsterdam, but it is here in my own country that I want the film seen,” she exclaims. The Rat Race will release in association with PVR and Big Cinemas on April 20 in PVR across Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi and in Big Cinemas in Mumbai.
The Rat Race
There are 33 Night Rat Killers (NRK) in Mumbai who kill using a stick. They earn Rs11,000 depending on collection and account for above 80 per cent of the bandicoot rats killed by BMC compared to trapping and poisoning. 2000 candidates applied for 30 vacant posts of NRK last year. They were given strength and speed tests. Many NRKs are graduates who see it as the first step in becoming a government officer. They have to pass an exam so that after three years of service they can apply for the post of Sanitation Inspector.