The Dew Drop (Oass): Goa Film Bazaar Review

The Dew Drop Film Still - H 2012
A simply told story of child prostitution that pulls no punches is compelling and heart-wrenching

First-time Indian director Abhinav Shiv Tiwari draws a high-impact performance from child actress Dibya Chhetri.

The tragedy of child prostitution is brought home with harsh realism and emotional force in The Dew Drop, the re-telling of a true story involving the abduction of an 11-year-old Nepalese girl, sold into service in a New Delhi brothel by her aunt. Though this first feature by Indian filmmaker Abhinav Shiv Tiwari uses few refined film techniques, its story makes compelling viewing even as a straight-forward narrative.  The screenplay’s dark horrors are balanced by the heroine’s unfazed courage and will to escape, as a sinister net tightens around her. Too shocking to be an easy film to watch, it has the power of a wake-up call for audiences. It was produced in association with an NGO fighting against human trafficking and the subject should hold particular interest for festivals and out-reach groups.

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According to the India’s federal police, some 1.2 million children are believed to be involved in child prostitution, in an underworld industry rivalling arms and drug traffic.

Opening scenes of simple village life in the high mountains of Nepal are the most conventional part of the film, somewhat awkwardly introducing Kiku (Dibya Chhetri) as a restless girl with braids who dreams of getting an education. She jumps at the chance to go to the city with her aunt, though alert viewers will have less trouble than her naive parents in smelling a rat.

Her virginity is taken matter-of-factly by a faceless border guard in cahoots with the aunt, amid her heart-rending shrieks. The next stop is a small Delhi brothel where, screaming piteously, she’s quickly raped by a long series of customers, one face melting into another. This is the last of Kiku’s sexual encounters that is shown onscreen, or needs to be.

When a power struggle inside the house ends in bloody murder, she’s snatched by a would-be brothel lord along with a child even younger than herself. There is no flirting with the romantic side of brothel life as in Bertrand Bonello’s elegiac House of Tolerance, or documentaries  like Zan Briski’s Born into Brothels  which looks for hope in the children of Calcutta’s sex workers; here, Kiku is subject to beatings, threats of getting acid thrown in her face and is an eye-witness to horrifying violence. Fear and loathing affect even the half-friendships she forms with her fellow slaves, and the only hope is to escape.

Seen from the girls’ p.o.v., most adults in the film are brutal, repulsive characters -- though very nuanced thanks to the strong cast. Even the Delhi police, to whom Kiku turns to help, come in for a scathing indictment. In the first brothel, the madam (Priyanka Bose) and her main attraction, Pinky (Nidhi Mahavan), are so similar in their debasement, greed and cynicism they’re hard to tell apart, and both are involved with the same violent pimp (Subrat Dutta.) But the worst is yet to come in the large, colourful bordello where Kiku is sold, whose knife-wielding owner (Yashpal Sharma) is a monstrous sadist. Though a kind of deus ex machina is required to find some kind of acceptable ending (presumably reflecting the heroine’s real-life story), there is both a sense of closure and wrenching sorrow for lost innocence that is rare to find even in much more sophisticated films.     

A beautiful, low-key performance by young Dibya Chhetri is that of a true heroine who never gives up. Louiz Banks’ musical comment has a heavy- breathing rhythm that underscores the life-or-death struggle going on.

Venue: Goa Film Bazaar, Nov. 23, 2012

Production companies: True Cinema in association with Philind Motion Pictures, Kreative Harvest
Dibya Chhetri,Yashpal Sharma, Barnali Medhi, Sonam Stobgais, Sneha Thapa, Dipika Singh, Subrat Dutta, Priyanka Bose, Gauri Mehra, Sahiba Vij, Nidhi Mahavan, Amit Dhawan, Kiran Sharma

Director:  Abhinav Shiv Tiwari
Screenwriters:  Abhay Shetty, Prajay Shah, Aparajit Shukla
Producers:  Raj Rahi, Debasish Bhattacharjee, Dharmendra Yashovardhan, Zenaida Mastura

Associate producer: Jimeesh Gandhi
Executive producer: Rajat Sarkar  
Director of photography:  Viraj Singh
Production designer:  Sukant Panigrahy
Music:  Louiz Banks
Costume designer:  Abhilasha
Editor:  Pascale Chavance
Sales:  True Cinema (Mumbai)
No rating, 100  minutes