‘This is a love story’: Makers of Netflix documentary ‘Rooting for Roona’


How Pavitra Chalam and Akshay Shankar conceived a documentary that narrates the story of a child battling hydrocephalus

Seven years in the past, when Pavitra Chalam was researching for a mission, she stumbled upon {a photograph} that was arresting, virtually unreal. It was of a child lady with a 36-inch head (double the same old measurement). Pavitra, a documentary filmmaker who tells tales of youngsters with advanced wants, felt compelled to know extra about this child, Roona Begum, from a bit village, Jirania Khala, in Tripura. Pavitra and her co-filmmaker, Akshay Shankar, determined that it might be their subsequent. With their crew they left from Bengaluru to a hospital in Delhi, the place Roona was awaiting surgical procedure together with her dad and mom.

This was how the documentary brief Rooting for Roona, now streaming on Netflix, started. It was screened on the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala, Tryon Film Festival in North Carolina and South Asian Film Festival of Orlando. It was additionally one in every of six movies chosen by the Women in Film Finishing Film grant in 2019.

The child’s {photograph} had captured the eye of nationwide and worldwide media. Roona and hydrocephalus (a situation, whereby cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in mind cavities, enlarging the pinnacle) have been a sizzling subject. The toddler had a profitable surgical procedure. With that, the media frenzy ended. But Pavitra, Akshay and their crew determined to be with Roona and her household. An assistant director, Ananya Roy, spoke their dialect and acted as a liaison between the household and medical doctors, media amongst others. Roona’s battle with hydrocephalus was not over. No one knew if or when it might.

Sudden heartbreak

“Usually, for a documentary, you can pre-empt certain things and make a plan. But in this case, right from day one, we had to tell ourselves anything can happen,” says Akshay.

“The end we had in mind was seeing her walk. That was everyone’s dream,” provides Pavitra.

However, it was not a fairytale. Roona handed away in 2017 when she was 5 and a half. “It was devastating. She was a month away from one more surgery that might have cured her,” says Pavitra.

Rooting for Roona, nonetheless, is neither a sob-story nor a documentary about hydrocephalus itself. “Every living day was a hard-won victory for Roona and her young parents [Fatima Khatun and Abdul Rahman]. She was living on impossibility,” says Pavitra. The documentary, therefore, is a story of inspiration, she provides.

A love story

The makers say that Rooting for Roona, no doubt, is their hardest mission. It was, in some ways, additionally their most memorable.

“We are a small production house. So, it was difficult to get funding, assemble a team. But we got a lot of support from within the team and outside,” says Akshay, “We had to beg, borrow, steal to stay in the dingiest of places so that we could spend another day with the family.”

For Pavitra, the documentary is extra private. She was pregnant throughout the post-production part, a number of months after Roona’s demise. “In a way, Roona was my first child. The nine months of pregnancy coincided with the film’s post-production,” she says, “I also spent a lot of time with Fatima. I could understand deeply her feelings for Roona. This documentary… it is a love story between a mother and daughter; a love story between us and this little girl.”

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