Bilal

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About the Film

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Shamim and Jharna are both twenty-seven years old and stone blind. They met in a blind school, and fell in love. They got married, despite intense opposition from both families due to their different religions. They now live with Shamim’s mother in a 8 ft by 10ft room in a very poor area of Kolkata. Shamim had been operating a telephone booth, but recently he lost his job due to the insensitivity of the telecom company and the unscrupulous behaviour of a middleman. Since then he has been struggling to make ends meet and keep his family from begging on the streets. Currently he runs a food canteen in a student’s hostel of a film school located in the outskirts of Kolkata.

Shamim and Jharna have two kids, both with normal vision. Bilal, the older child is two years old, while the younger one is still an infant.

This film is about Bilal and his special relationship with his parents and the world.

Though of a very tender age, Bilal is fully aware of the physical handicap of his parents. He knows how to communicate with them through sounds and touch. For example, when Jharna brings him some food and he refuses it, Bilal does not simply push away the food. He takes Jharna’s hands to the food to show that he is not having it. If Bilal is happy with us, or his grandmother, he would smile, but if he wants to tell his parents that he is happy, he will go and hug them.

Both Shamim and Jharna are highly sensitive to the sounds that Bilal makes while moving, and can locate him with such ease and confidence that it is difficult to believe that they are blind. Quite often, when Bilal is in the mood for mischief, he plays a cat-and-mouse game with his parents. He would try to ‘hide’ from them in the corner of the room, or tease his younger brother (sometimes even biting him), all the while keeping an eye on his parents to see if they can catch him. Amazingly, the odds are almost evenly stacked in most of these ‘contests’.

When Bilal does manage to confound Jharna and escape, she usually has no recourse, but to shout in exasperation. Luckily for her, all the neighbours are very sensitive to her needs. One shout is usually enough to bring out at least a couple of them and Bilal is promptly found and returned to her mother’s custody.

Very unusually for our times, Bilal’s upbringing and care seems to have become a collective responsibility of all the neighbours, and even people with whom Shamim’s family had little contact before Bilal was born now show their concern and care for him.

In a way, Bilal has become their window to the world.

Note : Though Bilal is only two years old, he is already beginning to take on the responsibilities of a guardian. It is a curious sight to see the kid, almost a toddler, confidently guide his father on the streets of Kolkata or inside the campus of the film school and Shamim give in to his directions with complete confidence. Even at home, when Jharna is unable to find some object in the room, Bilal never fails to bring her hand to it.

The film will try to record, over a period of about a year, Bilal’s interaction with his parents, both at home and outside, to try and capture how it feels to grow up in a special family like theirs.
 

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