Bang Bang Galore!
A Filmmaker’s BLOGELLA
Written by Steve Rosenberg
Blog #7 (Fame)
The Born Free Arts School is located in Austin Town, a grimy, foul- odoured neighbourhood, not far from downtown Bangalore. Born Free Students share their space with three hundred elementary school children. Despite the abject poverty, these young students all arrive with freshly washed blue school uniforms and most young girls wear their hair in two braids folded in loops and adorned by coloured ribbons.
The matronly sari clad teachers can be seen brandishing tiny straw whips to scurry stragglers into their classrooms. The government school modeled on the English system from the fifties is the antithesis to free spirit of the Born Free Art School. Yet, it is a peaceful coexistence between both groups and because The Born Free students are older budding artists, they are seen as the cool factor in this school.
The Born Free students are indeed cool, but I still haven’t figured out what the future hold for them. The Born Free Students’ school agenda changes hourly, depending which of their two full time teachers has a new inspiration. So, there I was training a group of eight very spirited kids on how to use a camera that I know they will probably not have the money to own or rent. They all wanted to touch my camera at once, which is a slight problem because dead waiting time generates waning interest in the class.
While I was helping one student learn the mechanics of manual focus, I noticed Jayram losing complete focus in the class. Through the corner of my eye, I watched him executing a very stylized combination of nifty dance movements. This was my moment to forget about teaching. I immediately trained the lens on him and watched him strut his stuff. As more kids pushed to get into the act, I decided to create more space for them by moving the venue into an open corridor not to far from office of Mrs. George, the head mistress. Mrs. George took a shining to me when I asked her to give me her two bits on the current state of government schools in Bangalore.
It was now lunchtime and the elementary students were piling into the corridor, which also doubles as a cafeteria. Suddenly, a four-year-old boy was pounding out a consistent beat on his wooden drum. Anthony, my camera assistant, dragged out another drum and before I knew it, I found myself directing an episode of FAME.
Each kid had a three-minute segment and most were eager to showcase their best moves for the camera. Incorporating the roots of South Indian dance which included wobbly necks, barefoot heal placements at ninety degrees with MTV hip- hop dance moves, they lit up the school in a matter of minutes. Interestingly, Faisel, an eleven year boy who is the lone Muslim in the group had has own groove happening with some very well placed shoulder rolls and some barefooted, high karate kicks.
I was told that no one else dances like these street kids. They feel the rhythms in their bodies and the way they move is seldom duplicated in formal dance training settings. I’ve seen kids from the South African Townships grind it out on stage and black kids from New Orleans tapping it up on Bourban Street, but nothing topped the dynamic force of these Indian street kids. Maybe, my involvement in this impromptu dance coloured my perceptions of this dance, but I can’t help falling for these kids. One by one, I am becoming involved in their life stories.