Filmmaker Kireet Khurana never gave beggars a second look on the roads. They were just faceless statistics to him, just like they are to most people driving past them. But all of it changed when he was invited to the Aspire Circle fellowship—which promotes enlightened social leadership in India—programme in 2016. It was at this forum that Khurana met Tarique Mohammad, the founder of Koshish, who works against criminalisation of the poor.
“The stories shared by Tarique about the pathetic state of affairs of the homeless convinced me that this was a story that needed to be shared with the world,” says Khurana. A few years down the lane, Khurana is ready with The Invisible Visible that seeks to build support for the homeless and destitute of the country.
The documentary, which will be released mid-2022, puts across a few pertinent demands. He wants to focus on repealing the draconian Bombay Beggary Prevention Act, 1959, which allows an official to imprison any person found begging or on the suspicion of beggary. His other two demands from the authorities is to create enough shelters for the homeless based on their population in every state and also to ensure safety of women and children in these shelters.
Khurana explains how beggars’ home is a misleading term as there is little dignity in those shelters and they are worse than jails. “Earlier, I never noticed the homeless people on roads. They were invisible to me just like they are to most people. It was during the 52 days of shooting for the film that I began to see things from a different perspective. The three top demands as shared in the film comes from them, and I as a filmmaker simply present this through my medium,” says the Mumbai-based filmmaker.
Being associated with hard-hitting social films is not new for Khurana, who has made over 12 short films, and over 500 ad films. He has worked on multiple award-winning public service campaigns, including a series of four short films for the Childline India Foundation on themes such as child labour and child marriage.
However, apart from documentaries, Khurana has also left an indelible mark on animation. The credit goes to his father, Bhimsain, a legendary animation filmmaker. In 1970, Bhimsain’s debut short film, The Climb, won him the Silver Hugo award at the prestigious Chicago International Film Festival. “My father was quite a prolific filmmaker and was considered to be the pioneer of Indian animation. The popular short animation film Ek Anek Aur Ekta (the Ek chidiya song), created in 1974 was made by him,” he says. Bhimsain, who passed away in 2018, was also known for some of his memorable films such as Gharonda (1977), Dooriyan (1979), Tum Laut Aao (1983), to name a few.
It was after his filmmaking course in Canada that Khurana started Climb Media in the mid-90s, and a few years later, added an animation wing called 2nz Animation Co to it. “Without a doubt, the biggest inspiration in my life was my father who effectively communicated in a creative way. It was the manner in which he could communicate a message to the audience that made his animations so timeless. In many ways, I consider myself a storyteller just like him,” he adds.
Khurana won the first of his six National Awards in 1995 for the animated film Mahagiri, the story of an elephant. He is also the director of the hit 2010 film Toonpur Ka Superrhero, starring Ajay Devgn and Kajol, which for the first time, in Hindi films, attempted to combine live-action with 3D animation.
Currently, Khurana is busy promoting The Invisible Visible while his company Climb Media also dabbles with ad films, short films and documentaries. According to the filmmaker, these commercial ventures help him financially so that he can then make socially- relevant films which can bring a difference to the society.