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Kids with Down’s need inclusion: Onir

Onir is known for dealing with LGBT issues in his films but ‘Raising the Bar’ is very different from his previous endeavours and deals with Down’s syndrome.

lucknow Updated: May 03, 2019 17:51 IST
Deep Saxena
Deep Saxena
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Down Syndrome,Lucknow,Entertainment
National award-winning director Onir.(Dheeraj Dhawan/HT Photo)

National award-winning director Onir is not new to Lucknow. He keeps coming to the city, and during his recent visit for the screening of the documentary ‘Raising the Bar’, he said that his next film may be shot in Lucknow.

“I am very positive that later this year, or early next year, I will definitely shoot in Uttar Pradesh. I will be shooting ‘Driving Lessons’ and half the film is set in the state. After elections, I will come for a recce (reconnaissance) and figure out where I can shoot it! It could happen in Lucknow too. It has Tannishtha Chatterjee and the rest are yet to be finalised,” said the ‘I Am’ director.

Onir is known for dealing with LGBT issues in his films but ‘Raising the Bar’ is very different from his previous endeavours and deals with Down’s syndrome.

“The documentary was shot over three years in Australia and India in various cities. We were following a group of people (three from Australia and three from India) having Down’s syndrome. The starting point was that there was this group of children (eMotion21) from Melbourne who are performers, dancers and they had come to India for World Down’s Syndrome Conference. We shot with them in Melbourne, Kolhapur, Agra, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.”

The film has travelled to a lot of film festivals. “We want it to travel in as many cities possible, as it’s something that is not spoken about so that we can have a dialogue about Down’s syndrome and inclusion. We want to show it in schools and public that such children are brought into mainstream society and get to study along with normal children. All of us have some shortcoming and strength and they too can bring lot of thing to the world.”

One of the characters, Devanshi Joshi, is from Lucknow. “In the early stage, her parents struggled to get her admitted to a mainstream school but they managed and get her educated with normal children. Now, she is based in Delhi. She has given her board exams and works in a store and is extremely sincere and very hardworking. Another person, Prathemesh, is a librarian in an engineering college in Kolhapur. There is also this Delhi girl, Arshia, who goes to a normal school as her brother,” he said.

All characters in the film are real. “After 25 years, I did this documentary. Producer Mitu (Bhowmick) was looking for a director and I got interested in it as it’s a film about diversity and inclusion. Being a person who has been open and part of the LGBT society, I have always talked about diversity and inclusion be it religion, task, physical preference or gender.”

The director said that directing the film was a learning and enriching experience. “It was a challenge for me to get their confidence, for which I spent a lot of time with them. Those were precious moments for me. I used to accompany Arshia with her mother every day, and on the third day, she left her mother’s hand and held mine. It was very special for me as I had gained her trust. The love I have got from them is more rewarding than anything else,” he said.

Onir adds, “All three are part of the eMoition21 group, which has members of Down’s syndrome and they all dance and sing and have performed all over the world. One of the child’s mother told me when her child was born, it was suggested that she kill it by placing a pillow on his face. Today, she is proud of her son. Looking at all this, I realised how fortunate we are and little bit of kindness does not cost anything.”

Last year, for four months, he shot another documentary ‘Widows of Vrindavan’, which has now started going to festivals.

He is also ready to shoot two web-series. “They have been commissioned for two different platforms. Currently the writing process is on. One I am working with ‘Raazi’ writer Bhawani Iyer and for the other, I have collaborated with another writer,” he said.

Talking about his love for city he said, “I have come to Lucknow several times and have wanted to shoot here. I love it because of two reasons — the architecture of Old Lucknow and food. I am really fascinated with the Satkhanda building and Hazratganj.”

First Published: May 03, 2019 17:51 IST