'A child is bound to society'

Familial ties

'A child is bound to society'

People are bound in many ways to their various identities, but while there are some knots that can easily be loosened, others are more difficult to slip out of.

It is the latter kind that director Umashankar Swamy explores in his film ‘Saalada Magu’, which was recently screened at the Bengaluru International Film Festival.

Based on a short story of the same name by Kuvempu, it examines bonded child labour in a direct and indirect way.

Pulling on familial ties, which is one of the hardest to break out of, Umashankar, in the film, lingers on the freedom of a child.

“‘Saalada Magu’ is a short story by Kuvempu about a farm hand, Ranga, who is in heavy debt and when he dies, this debt falls on the shoulders of his son, Subba. When this happens, Subba, who is used to roaming free with nature, has to change his lifestyle and work to repay the loan.”

Although bonded labour may seem like an outdated subject to pick in an urban setting, the Kannada director says that there are many ways to look at the content. “Bonded labour might be illegal but it still happens, which is one (direct) point the film makes. On further reflection, you see that every child, wherever he or she are, is bound to their parents and family, which is another point the film touches upon.”

The relationship a person, especially a child, shares with nature is linked with freedom, whereby the lack of it is equated with further bondage.

Explaining this, he says, “Are people growing with nature today? When we were young, we grew up with nature but kids these days don’t have that privilege. We are bringing them up in a restricted environment.”

Technology, which seems to hold the attention of most people, has its role to play, but it shouldn’t get in the way of growth, he adds. “It depends on how we use technology. Yes, technology helps reduce physical burden but where does it all lead is the question.”

Another indirect point he emphasises on is the role of the parent in a child’s life. “We are making our children live our dreams and aspirations. The only freedom they get is after their Bachelors, which is when they get a chance to think for themselves. Till then, a child is bound to society and his or her parents’ inclinations.”

But where does one draw the line when handing out freedom to a child? “Can they come back home whenever they want? No. There are many questions that appear at this stage. Like, if we give them the freedom, what will they do with it? Circumstances have made us ask questions that we didn’t before.”

More of an old-schooler, this was Umashankar’s first attempt at using the digital medium to make a film.

“People assume that they can make a low budget film if they go digital but this is a wrong notion. When I decided to make this film, I thought digital would be cost effective but that’s a different story! There are some things that technology can replace and make easier but there are other roles that have to be done the traditional way. So, you can make a movie in either Rs 30,000 or Rs three
crore.”

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