Press Esc to close
Sunday 30 April 2017
News updated at 10:01 AM IST

They are paid to kill the rats

Last updated: 23 May, 2010
Jackie Pinto 17:34 IST

Rodent menace

Miriam Chandy Menacherry, a documentary film-maker from Bangalore, who focuses on real life stories found the rat killers of Mumbai fascinating and decided to make them the subject of her film The Rat Race.

She pitched the concept to the Cannes jury at the MIPDoc Co Production Challenge, which is an international pitching competition for documentary film-makers.
They were equally intrigued by the story and Miriam won, beating entries from the Czech Republic, France, UK and New York.

The film delves into the life of the 30-member strong workforce who trawl the streets of Mumbai clubbing rats to death on a daily basis – a job they get paid to do by the government. A job that also requires a 10th standard pass and a high level of fitness. “I have a rat phobia myself and in Mumbai rats and people share the same living space on the streets. At first I used to be terrified of the rats swarming around at night, crawling over people sleeping on street corners and was quite a hindrance during the shoot,” she laughs.

With one third of the film already complete she talks of the challenges still ahead and the gripping human component of the subject. “Over 2,000 people showed up for the recruitment drive, from postgraduates to students needing a night job. Rat killers have to kill a minimum of 30 rats every night by beating them with a stick and are paid Rs 8 to 12 thousand a month. 29 dead rats do not count as a day’s work although, they are given a window of two days to reach their target,” she explains.

The carcasses are gathered up in sacks, counted by the supervisor and some sent to the Haffkine Institute for studies.

A pivotal character in the story is Behram Harda, a legend in rat killer circles who spent 35 years of his life working as a supervisor in the BMC's Pest Control Department. “He came to Mumbai to become an actor and landed the role of a banker in a Bollywood film. His father persuaded him to swap his starry dreams for the safety of a government job. He has painstakingly documented each rat killed over the years (over 2.8 million) in perfect Taj Mahal style calligraphy – a veritable work of art. He is known for his honesty and dedication and though just retired comes in to supervise the work,” she says.

Miriam feels that the rat killers reflect the dichotomy of India’s financial capital and City of dreams at many different levels. “Some of them worship rats by day and kill them at night.”

Miriam expects to release her film by December and is funding it herself although she is in talks with television channels and media houses. “I hope it will be seen extensively across the country as it is a deeply Indian story,” she signs off.

Go to Top

Photo Gallery
My Take: Can you count colours? Photo by Nalini R Magal from Hassan...

My Take: Can you count colours? Photo by Nalini R Magal from Hassan...

My Take: Happiness as a warm puppy. Photo by Varsha Chalageri from Dharwad...

My Take: Happiness as a warm puppy. Photo by Varsha Chalageri from Dharwad...

My Take: Pretty posers. Photo by Siddhi Doddanavar, from Belgaum...

My Take: Pretty posers. Photo by Siddhi Doddanavar, from Belgaum...

My Take: You mean, I wont grow up to be a tiger? Photo by Praveenkumar P K from Dharwad

My Take: You mean, I wont grow up to be a tiger? Photo by Praveenkumar P K from Dharwad

The good side vs the bad side. Photo by Gayatri Venkatesh from Bengaluru...

The good side vs the bad side. Photo by Gayatri Venkatesh from Bengaluru...

Border Security Force (BSF) personals handing over a 15 years old Pakistani national Razak...

Border Security Force (BSF) personals handing over a 15 years old Pakistani national Razak...

Basaveshwara statue is decorated on the occasion of Basava Jayanthi and Akshaya Tritiya....

Basaveshwara statue is decorated on the occasion of Basava Jayanthi and Akshaya Tritiya....

A Japanese Hitoshi Takahashi biker performs stunt during Yamaha FMX stunt show in Kochi, Kerala...

A Japanese Hitoshi Takahashi biker performs stunt during Yamaha FMX stunt show in Kochi, Kerala...

People use umbrella to protect from rain at at MG Road and Kasturba Road junction in Bengaluru...

People use umbrella to protect from rain at at MG Road and Kasturba Road junction in Bengaluru...

A lion beats the heat by relaxing under a tree at Dr Shivaram Karnath Biological Park...

A lion beats the heat by relaxing under a tree at Dr Shivaram Karnath Biological Park...

Like us on Facebook

Copyright 2017, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523
Powered by Yodasoft Technologies Pvt. Ltd.