Bang Bang Galore!
A Filmmaker’s BLOGELLA
Written by Steve Rosenberg
Blog 8 (A day of Song)
Sent: March 26, 2007 10:12:22 AM
Yesterday was Sunday, the day a few young boys from Born Free were promised they could head to the local swimming pool with the foreigner from Canada. These boys were excited about their outing, but they would have to wait until the late afternoon when they would strip down to their undies before plunging into the outdoor pool with cannonballs.
The day started with me filming a recording session in a cramped second floor music studio with poor ventilation and a sputtering fan. Born Free artistic director, John Deveraj decided to write a song in honour of Faisal, one of the rag sniffing street kids who arrived on his doorstep from the slums. Faisal is probably the most damaged kid in the group. I have this sinking feeling about this kid that no amount of art or dance rehabilitation is going to prevent him from future bouts of melancholia. Just looking at this eleven-year-old boy with layers and layers of dirt on his clothes, you know immediately see the poverty. He’s got multiple scars on his wrists, thin gashes around his neck and he is missing both his front teeth.
I am fascinated with this kid for a variety of reasons. Faisal has the swagger of a mobster, leaning back as he sizes me up before choosing to talk. When he does finally talk, this quiet boy with a raspy voice oozes charm. Most of the other Born Free kids have cleaned up nicely, but not this kid. I observe him closely because I relate very strongly to his ADD traits; only his problems are more complicated by his ongoing battle with drug addiction.
With the focus of a mosquito, I watch him float in and out of his classrooms at a whim. His mind was clearly somewhere else during classes. I watched him in photography class as Mio began preparing the kids for our photographic road trip. He botched the opening assignment, fumbling around with batteries that required the negative and positive currents to be matched. Being the techno-peasant that I was for so many years, I tried to re-insert the batteries for him, so that he would have a charged camera. I too failed because I didn’t have my reading glasses. With each new nugget of camera instruction, you could see Faisal slowly fading away.
Poor Faisal! It’s difficult not to feel for this kid. Recently, John wrote a song for Faisal and decided that it would be a great idea to turn the song into a video. I was asked to film the session and all the kids sat outside of the recording booth watching their John, their savior pay tribute this unfortunate young boy. I must say that within minutes of the opening stanza, it was clear that there was a bit of rust piling up on John’s halo. He has a gorgeous baratone speaking voice, but when he opens his mouth to sing, he is flat. I spent forty minutes filming him. If I didn’t admire his good intentions, I would have bolted sooner.
I was amazed to see Raja, the laid back sound engineer and John negotiate the finer points of syncopation and minor tonal infractions as they laid down musical phrase after phrase, track after track. And don’t get me started on the lyrics because I am still trying to block out the chorus. “Faisal the Gazel….” The main thrust of the piece is to honour Faisel’s trajectory from the beggar boy who sniffs correction white out fluids to boy who joins an arts school. It was a noble and heartwarming gesture to honour a child junkie, however, it was an excruciatingly painful moment in my career as a filmmaker.
Even Faisal was fading and at some point during the session, Mio had to constantly lure Faisel back to his chair! “Faisel, the gazel” Those words are now stuck in my head, like a bad dream. The boys were given the carrot of going to the swimming pool with me if they stuck around for the taping. I finally had to pull the plug and say that I was melting in this tiny studio and that we had sufficient coverage to create a powerful video.
As I was folding up my tripod and collecting my gear, I managed to hear the mixed version of the song and actually, I have to admit that the song wasn’t half as bad as I anticipated. In fact, some of John’s recorded material is actually quite good. I marvel at the wonders of modern music technology.
Later, I took a handful of boys to the local public swimming pool only to learn that the facility exceeded its maximum limit of sunbathers.
All the kids take turns holding my tripod and camera, but when Faisel asks I say yes, but I feel nervous; not that he would steal it, but rather that he has the potential to lose it. During our two- hour wait period, I decided to take the boys to a juice kiosk. Most kids ordered mango and the order was straightforward until I pulled out my cash to pay the vendor, I could see Faisel’s eyes light up. “Can I have another drink? I’m thirsty” “No, Faisel! If I buy you an extra mango juice, I have to buy everyone else an extra drink.” He wanted to borrow money. Faisel was persistent, but I held firm. As much as I like this kid, I feel he tries to cons me for little extras.
And on the other end of the spectrum there is Satish, the one legged boy who has a heart of gold and is always thinking of others first. Satish offered to reserve our space in the line up of four-hundred, noisy schoolboys while we hung out in the parking lot. Even though I am away from the congested line up, I cannot seem to escape unnoticed; Indian boys crowded around me look at me as a curiosity. I truly hate being the centre of attention, but that seems to be my fate in this country.
Faisel quietly disappeared without notice. Satish explained that he regularly returns to the streets to beg. Faisel, the gazel. I am growing to love this kid and was very relieved when he mysteriously turned up at the right moment for our pool entry. “Where were you Faisel?” No answer. Fasiel, stripped down to his briefs and was the first kid into the pool. “Hey, Steve! Look at me!” he says while hacking through the water with his awkward head up crawl. Faisel is a pleasure to watch.