By Ashna Butani
The children of Haji Public School, Breswana, a remote village in Jammu and Kashmir, have dreams that are accompanied with their own set of problems. The short film, Dreamers of Breswana directed by Praveen Pillay takes us to the dreamy lands of Breswana and into the lives of the children there. It is a story of how a village triumphs over its problems, with community efforts and crowdfunding.
Shrouded in mist, the Haji Public School is perched on a hill, 7500 ft above sea level. “I want to become a doctor because there are no doctors in my village, no one to help the poor people,” says young, starry-eyed Priya Sharma. The film begins with a sequence of students narrating their dreams.
This is followed by their greatest problem; the lack of electricity. The children’s enthusiastic embrace of learning is coupled with the lack of teaching methods that show them the outside world. The need for electricity is highlighted in the film through interactions with the school principal, teachers and local residents. The children are at risk of diseases and infections from the local firewood that aids them while studying.
Saura Mandala, a non-governmental organization (NGO) steps in to rid the village of this problem. The process of installing solar panels is shown through the short film. The film ends on a positive note, with the children eager to learn. They say that the use of presentations on laptops help them understand the world better. They are no longer cut off from the rest of the world.
There are two parts to the film, says the Director, Praveen Pillay. “The first part was shot to raise awareness about the issue and help the NGO Saura Mandala receive funding.” After the first part was showcased, the project received crowdfunding. The second part is a 9-minute long success story, a ray of hope for the village, and a source of inspiration to other such communities.
Before shooting the film, Praveen taught at the school along with his wife, Madhuri. “The students showed us a lot of potential while we were teaching. One of the children, Rohit Sharma, had only started learning English three months earlier, he was quick to learn.” The students’ answers were so candid that it moved the team.
The shooting spanned 8 days. “My filmmaking career began in Breswana itself with Breswana’s Prateek,” says Praveen who has been working closely with the NGO Saura Mandala. The organisation was founded by Nagakarthik, who left his IT job to fulfil a greater purpose.
The organisation and the filmmaking team have indeed fulfilled their purpose. “I like this school, it is like my home,” said Humeera Banoo. Selected students will soon get the chance to venture out of Jammu and Kashmir, with the help of crowdfunding that raised Rs. 2,75,000. The trip will help students learn about places outside, while also encouraging other students to study hard and make it to the top of their class.