This film is based on an award-winning children’s adventure novel The Blind Witness (1983) by Arup Kumar Dutta. Arup Kumar Dutta’s adventure thriller (The Kaziranga Trail, 1979) for kids incidentally also won the first CBT award for writers of Children’s books, and was made into a movie Rhino (1987).
The Blind Witness has also been translated into Russian & Japanese, and converted to Braille in Japan.
The screenplay and direction of the film is by Nabendu Ghosh, the veteran screenplay writer of several Hindi movies like Sujata, Bandini, Devdas.
The story is about Ram, a blind boy, living with his parents in Mumbai. His loss of eyesight is compensated by his keen sense of hearing and he can recognise people by their footsteps and/ or voices. It’s this sense of hearing which form the crux of this gripping thriller.
The film begins at night, in a forest, where a shady deal in antiques is taking place. The Police break in on the deal, announcing their arrival with a torchlight. The foreign dealer manages to escape. The smugglers, money and the precious statue however come into the custody of cops.
This enrages the head of the smuggling racket and he suspects an antique dealer for being a Police informant. He orders his henchman to kill the dealer.
Elsewhere, Ram, is having a conversation with his neighbour Gopalan uncle, on their society’s rooftop. Ram points that Mr. Gopalan has been smoking way too much lately. Mr. Gopalan tells him that he is going through rough times as his shop’s not doing so well.
Meanwhile Ram’s mother is worried as he has been late in coming down, but Ram’s father assures her. They are a lower middle-class family with both parents working. As such Ram has a fixed routine, but his mother is worried for him all the same. His best-friend is Sunil with whom he goes to school.
Ram is alone during afternoons after returning from school. Most of his building remains empty too and the vicinity is quiet and peaceful at this hour. When alone he likes to converse and share his thoughts with his pet parrot Inder.
One day after coming from school Ram hears some voices coming from the staircase. He recognises one of them as being of Gopalan uncle. He hears the other two voices clearly along with their names, when they stop for a while in front of his house before going upstairs, where Mr. Gopalan lives. He tells Inder about these voices and the general body structure of the two men. He also feels that the voices indicate something wrong about these two. Wondering what Gopalan uncle is doing with them, he sits to play his flute.
Suddenly a gunshot rings out and he goes close to the door. There he again hears footsteps rushing down the stairs and someone speeding out on a motorcycle. Wondering what could be the matter, Ram hears people of the building talking about a murder.
Going upstairs, from where the voices are coming, he learns that the man murdered is none other than his Gopalan uncle. People gather talking about the murder and the fact that Mr. Gopalan is usually not at home at this hour. Ram comes back. Feeling sad he fondly reminisces Mr. Gopalan and his encouraging words to Ram whenever he felt low or dejected. It’s clear that Mr. Gopalan had played an important part in Ram’s life as a guide and teacher, and Ram in turn taught Mr. Gopalan braille.
Ram is by now sure that the two people he heard talking to Gopalan uncle are responsible for killing him. Therefore, he waits for the cops to come so he can provide the description of killers. However, the building’s secretary Mr. Chopra tells them that Ram won’t be of much help as he is blind, which hurts Ram.
By night everyone’s feelings about the nice and gentle Mr. Gopalan have changed. Now he is a thief, a smuggler dealing in stolen materials. That’s what the people and cops talk about and that’s what Ram’s parents tell him. When Ram protests his father gets angry and tells him that they won’t be talking about the matter anymore. Though Ram doesn’t talk about the matter to his parents again, he is convinced that the news about Mr. Gopalan is wrong and he was not involved with the smugglers.
So, is his friend Sunil. When they realise that the Police might not listen to them Sunil advises Ram that they should talk to a friend of Sunil’s father, a private investigator (PI). When Ram tells his story, the PI scolds them for spreading rumours and sends them back.
Ram comes back home disappointed. A little time after that he hears footsteps outside and recognises them as belonging to Mr. Gopalan’s killers. When the sounds come near his house, he realises the danger he is in, the killers now are evidently on his trail and have come to silence him.
But the question is how did they know? And how is Ram going to escape them without any help? Even if he does now, what next? Will the cops believe a blind witness like Ram? Then, there is also the question of Mr. Gopalan’s involvement in the smuggling racket.
You will have all the answers when you watch this movie and see if you find it as superb as I did. I am sure you will.
One other thing I am sure about is that the smugglers are more supportive of a blind boy than his neighbours. They believe in his story and are quick in acting on it, right.
Anyways, this was the culminating part of the triple movie series, started keeping in perspective the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. So, before discussing the importance of this day and the contribution we can make towards supporting it, let’s take a quick review of Netraheen Sakshi.
Minimum age- 8 years, maximum- no bar.
Since the screenplay and direction of the movie is of Nabendu Ghosh, it has to be taut and well-paced. The acting, especially of Ankur Zaveri as Ram is wonderful. He is convincing in his role of a blind boy. Whether it’s the agony of being treated differently or as lesser from others or the conviction to solve the riddle of Mr. Gopalan’s murder, all are conveyed superbly. The poems by Gulzar, rendered by the protagonist, further emphasize these emotions.
And I should singularly mention the role of police portrayed. Unlike many mainstream movies, the cops are shown as taking a more active part. I should say a very important part. Otherwise it is sometimes painful to see the way the role of police in catching a criminal is completely side-lined in serials or movies.
Writing anything more might work as spoilers, which I am going to avoid.
So just go ahead and watch it. Here’s a link:
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES,
I began this series with a quote from the book Indomitable Spirit, by Dr. Kalam. In the same chapter he mentions about a Bulgarian painter who had started painting by his left hand after his right hand became paralysed. Dr. Kalam remarked on this inspirational incident as: “It struck me that constructive genius cannot be hampered by a physical defect, as the power comes from inside and motivates one to forge ahead with the mission of one’s life.”
While reading this, I also remembered an article in a newspaper about Károly Takács, a Hungarian shooter who won two Gold medals shooting with his left hand after his right hand was injured. These stories of course tell a lot about what is referred to as the indomitable spirit in people by Dr. Kalam.
But I am not going to talk of the winning spirit in people in general and those with disabilities in particular. The thoughts I am going to share today is about the spirit of others. About us, those who are not physically disabled or differently-abled. The terms really do not matter. What matters is our behaviour. And what could dampen that indomitable spirit, is our attitude towards them.
As such people with any physical handicap or disability have to face lot of practical difficulties. Like lack of ramps in public places or absence of books in braille to name a few. To burden them with our apathetic or pitiful behaviour only goes to augment their problems.
So, what should be done to integrate those with disabilities into all spheres of life? What is the right attitude? What is to be done to further the cause for which today’s date was marked by United Nations?
Frankly, I may not know the right answer. Hence, I take some help of the movies selected for the series. There was, I felt, a simplicity present in these narratives, no over the top sympathies or dramatics. The day-to-day manner in which these stories are dealt with, tells us how easy it is to communicate with those with disabilities and yet how difficult one must make their life by giving them a different treatment.
The movies therefore remind me that the first step needed is normalcy in our approach. Just a regular, day-to-day behaviour from others and they won’t feel different or strange. This perhaps will help break down barriers, both ways, and act as the first step in the integration of people with disabilities in all spheres of life. This perhaps could help in achieving the objective with which this day is observed.
DISCLAIMER: The screenshots, stills and videos from the movie are included here only for the purpose of information, entertainment and propagation of children’s cinema. The copyright over the film rests with the owners/ producers of the movie.