Aditya Seth’s award winning documentary, Bahadur The Accidental Brave, brings out the plight of young migrant labourers of Nepal in Mumbai and the consequential boom in HIV positive cases in Achalam, a small town in Nepal. The documentary was screened in the city recently.
The film begins with a watchman in plain clothes asking for donations from people to send his Nepalese brothers back home for HIV treatment. Setting the base for the two issues right there, the film then explores the propensity of these youngsters to get involved in high risk sex, the compulsion to seek for a job in India due to lack of opportunities at home, and the indifference shown by the Government of Nepal towards their concerns.
The film, which was premiered in Kathmandu in August 2011, faced opposition from a few natives and politicians, who found the word ‘Bahadur’ in the title, derogatory. This, as explained in the movie, is because the term, which translates as ‘brave man’, is now used to stereotype the labour class from Nepal. “The people were apprehensive about the title. I intended a tongue-in-cheek reference to bring out the irony,” says Seth, who was in the city for the screening.
The idea for the movie had sprouted from the radio show Des Pardes, which Seth was involved in from 2005 to 2007. “The show dealt with the advocacies of healthy living for migrants from Nepal,” says Seth. The interaction with the Nepali community in Mumbai and a peek into their deplorable living conditions, he says, had surged in him a sense of responsibility and guilt. After three years of understanding the community, Seth took out the camera for shooting in 2008.
The film primarily focused on conceptualising the spread of HIV among the migrants, says Seth. From unsafe sex to unhygienic living, the carelessness of this migrant community was brought out. But this wasn’t the end. Seth found that the disease contracted from brothels in Mumbai was then passed on to their spouses back home, which also gave AIDS its new name ‘Mumbai rog’ among the Nepalese.
The film focuses on the migrants from Achalam, a small town in the west Nepal, where the cases of HIV+ve patients are most visible. “There is no electricity, no roads. We had to carry all our equipments and trek for 6-8 hours to reach Achalam. Once back, we stayed in a single lit hotel room,” says Seth, who admits that this was his toughest project ever.
In the 10-11 day stay at Achalam, Seth discovered that for the people in Achalam, death was a part and parcel of life. “This was most shocking for me. It was then I realised that it is more of a political problem,” says Seth, who in his film has Nepalese blaming politics for lack of development. The 53-minute film also brings out the unstable socio-political state of the country and its tenuous economic conditions, which stand as a root cause for migration.
While the film travels the globe, the vicious cycle of no money-no education-no jobs has a new batch of youngsters packing their bags to Mumbai. Tossed between the two countries, they continue to remain alienated from Nepal and unrecognised by India.
The film won the Best Documentary Award at the 2nd Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival April 2012, Greater Noida, India, Documentary Short Award of Excellence at the International Film Festival For Peace, Inspiration, Equality, Jakarta, Indonesia, August 2012 and the best Feature Film (Non-Fiction) at The Indian Independent Film Festival, Bangalore, 2013.