My Sister Laxmi

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It was not meant to become a film in the first place. I was only trying to help Marappa track his sister, in the beginning, knowing almost nothing about his past. Generally, people avoid discussing children’s past with them at Bornfree as it might open some traumatic wounds. One day after the ‘Indian Hospital’ shoot I landed at Bornfree with my camera. All the kids were practicing for their upcoming performance. On their request, I shot part of their practice session. And then left with Marappa and Mioi for our Laxmi search. That day we were going to meet some of Marappa’s relatives, whom Marappa did not want to go near to. While talking about them he informed us that his father had taken a debt of three lakhs rupees before his death from his relatives and now they want him to repay it. They will capture and make him slave if he goes near them. I was shooting Marappa while he was talking about his relatives. I decided to ask a little more about his parents and the film started from there.

Set in 2012, the film pivots on a 12-year-old stray, Marappa, who had a brutal childhood. His mother was burnt to death and his father abused him sexually before making him beg for survival. His sister Laxmi who is his constant companion and close confidant has gone missing since his childhood.

Once his father dies, Marappa is left with Rs. 300,000/ debt. Unable to pay this huge amount, Marappa is left with no option but to run away from his home. He wanders homeless for some time before getting picked up by Mioi Nakayama, a social activist. She brings Marappa to a special school called Bornfree, where art is practiced to help children forget their past traumas.

Although Art does help Marappa in dealing with his tragic past, he misses his sister. He decides to find her at all costs. Mioi joins him in his daring expedition. They begin their search in Bangalore not knowing how far this journey will take them, and in a country of 1.2 billion, it seems almost impossible. On their way, they meet several characters with their own intriguing stories.

Mainly, this film narrates the story of missing children in India. Nearly 11 children go missing in India every hour and at least four of them are never found. Many studies point out that children are often abducted by their own relatives for ransom or child slavery before being made to beg or work as bonded labor. Many get sexually exploited and sometimes they are even used as child soldiers or combatants in armed conflicts. This film epitomizes the story of missing children through Laxmi.

Published by Gautam Singh

Gautam Singh is an independent film-maker, writer, director and a program-maker at Al Jazeera Media Network. His films include ‘Gaon – The Village No More’, 'India's Offside Girls', ‘Daughters of Brothel’, ‘The Burning City’, ‘Indian Hospital’, and ‘My Sister Laxmi’. Currently, he lives in Doha, Qatar along with his family.

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