While the society, government and the NGO’s have become very active in the wake of increasing number of crimes against women, another social stigma that needs much attention is the abandonment of babies especially the girl child in India. Abandonment of children happens all over the world. It’s not a problem that’s unique to India or Kashmir. However, the recent Justice Verma Committee report reveals that 60,000 children are abandoned every year in India. Unicef, on the other side, pegs the number at a whopping 11 million and has been growing over the years.
So when award winning director Mohan Das wanted to take a look into this segment, Lashyaban Kashyap pitched in to co-produce. A story with a message to end discriminations against the girl child, ‘Muafinaama’ or ‘The Atonement’ is inspired by the numerous child abandonment cases in Kashmir last year. It also looks at dilemmas and repentance of the protagonist after he fails to save the abandoned child.
"It might come as a shocking revelation that the Indian Kashmiri society is essentially patriarchal and gives preference to male child. Muafinaama is inspired by the numerous child abandonment cases in Kashmir last year. Through this short film we aim to tackle some serious issues that lack commercial viability in the medium of features. The film is very sensitive and looks into the grave issue of child abandonment, especially the girl child,” said Lashyaban who is also learning the ropes of film direction and is keen to direct a feature film someday.
Muafinaama is about a Kashmiri Pandit guy who falls in love with a Kashmiri Muslim girl and struggles to get her. The film also holds a parallel story line about the increasing menace of child abandonment. The film was shot entirely in Kashmir and all the actors were cast from the valley, except the lead actor Sandesh Gour and Abhilash Panwar who is playing his elder brother. Sandesh, who acted in many serials including Saraswatichandra, CID, Savdhaan India is a mainstream actor and is also playing the lead in two Bollywood films. Abhilash Panwar is a new guy on the marquee and displays a lot of potential. The other actors include Turfat-ul-Ain, Firdous Khan, Azaad Shah, Said Ishtaq and Jahan Zeb in pivotal roles.
“Shooting in Srinagar with Kashmiri actors will be the most memorable memories for me. People in Kashmir are warm and kind hearted. We deliberately cast all the actors from the valley as we wanted to give an authentic touch to the story. Cousin of Bollywood celeb Iqbal Khan, Firdous Khan who keeps shuttling between Mumbai, Jammu and Kashmir, came down especially to do the role. We also roped in Umer Khan who is basically a singer to play the friend of the lead Character Ranvir. The winner of ‘Milay Sur 2 - Kashmir’s singing reality show, Umer has also lent his voice to the title song “Allah mujhe muaaf kar’ which is beautifully composed by Saurabh Chatterjee. Penned by Prabhat Mishra, the song brings out the pathos of the lead actor and his repentance on being unable to save the girl child,” Lashyaban added.
Last year, nearly half-a-dozen new born babies, mostly girls, were abandoned in Srinagar. Jammu and Kashmir also recorded a huge decline in sex ratio in 2011 census. The menace of girl abandonment is growing by the fold. Through this film, the makers are keen to bring about a social change. “I guess, we need to change our attitude towards the girl child and only this can deter one from taking such a ghastly step as abandoning their girl child. We have planned to take the film to various film festivals across the globe and would love to showcase the film in Kashmir to bring this subject to the notice of all. Even if we are able to make a few people think seriously on this issue, I think our goal will be accomplished. With this film we want to send out a message loud and clear to those who do such ghastly acts - Stop Dumping! Babies are not garbage,” signed off Lashyaban.