BANGALORE: Filmmaker Vinta Nanda woke up sometime back to the disturbing news that a 14-year-old housemaid had been battered by a TV starlet. Beyond the debate about poverty and child labour, she recognised the absence of one crucial thing. Individual accountability. The one thing she has never lacked. And that is why she has not just acknowledged those who mentored her as a brave, feminist voice in the world of Indian television, but has also done her bit to mentor those who had no one to look upto. Teaching and learning, she thinks are two of the most important things a human being can do. The heroes of her story are Loku, Vishnu, Inder and Anil who she says, “have conquered such heights today that my account will not take away from their achievements.”
The story begins in the 90s when says Vinta, “I found a boy at my door. He was Nepali, barely 10-years-old, red cheeked, curly haired with soulful eyes. He told me that my building’s watchman, his uncle had asked him to go from door to door in search of a job. The watchman had no place to keep him. The watchman told me that although the boy did not know housework, he would learn fast and do anything I asked him to. His name was Loknath Pandey. I told him he could stay at my house. The next morning when I was ready to leave for my shoot at Filmcity, I asked Loku to accompany me.”
On the sets, he kept following Vinta and she gave him the duty of carrying files. Within months, Loku became the ‘manager’ of all her files and even learnt to manage the episodic scripts for shooting, then editing and finally putting them away in archives.
Vinta recalls, “Then there was this boy, Inder, who would come on the sets to serve tea. I asked him where he lived and he said he slept at the studio. I asked him to accompany me home after pack-up that evening. We already had another boy called Anil working and living in our office, who was a little older than these two.” Soon Vinta also took in Loku’s brother Vishnu and Inder too, and her home became too small for her. She moved into a bigger place and paid for the treatment of Vishnu who was an epileptic child. She narrates, “My house became more or less like a hostel for these boys by night. They would leave for shoots early in the morning in the production cars, where they were now assisting other directors. Vishnu couldn’t keep up with the hectic pace of shooting, so I got him to start working as an assistant to the editors.”
A teacher would come to teach English to the boys and they were, “doing very well at work and like sponges, soaking every new experience hungrily. In time, Anil fell in love with Vandana, who was an associate writer with me at the time, and moved out on his own. He was earning very well by then. Loku, Inder and Vishnu stayed with me till all of them turned 18, and then I let them go into an independent dwelling which was watched over by me regularly for some more time. All of them continued to learn English for years later even after my company had downed its shutters and they were working for other production houses.”
Anil went on to direct some of the top rated shows on television including Kyunki… and Kahani…, and can be easily rated amongst the top 10 directors on television today.
Happily married to Vandana, he has three children. Loku is the director of another top rated show and Inder directs shows as well. Vishnu is a full fledged editor.
Vinta says with pride, “All four boys live in apartments bought with their own savings and dream now of building holiday homes outside Bombay. Some detractors would ask me if I thought I was God, and I would only smile and think to myself that I was only doing what every person should be doing. It was all coming so easy because the fire in the kids was enabling me to provide for them. "
She adds, "The boys were so driven that they didn’t waste a single day, hour or minute and never took even a second of their lives for granted. If each person or even family were to take it upon themselves to give one child an opportunity to build his/her life, the problem of child labour and brutality towards children would end in no time. Every school curriculum must teach children to do something for those who are not as fortunate as they are.”