It's probably the most audacious and noble idea ever used in an Indian film. Seven blind children trained to not just stand up on their feet but to also tap-dance to a triumphant finale!
That one-time TV actor (he played a junkie aeons ago on Doordarshan's serial soap Subah) turned film director (he made a film Dhoondte Reh Jaoge with Naseer et al which was hardly seen), Kumar Bhatia has just completed a film called Seven about 7 blind children who learn tap- dancing.
"It's an idea turned into a film that I lived and worked with for four years," says Bhatia who's now utterly consumed by the prospect of Seven finding a viable market for his film like those other notable films about challenged children Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black and Aamir Khan's Taare Zameen Par.
"My film doesn't treat the children as physically challenged marginalized children. But as part of the mainstream. When the idea of training seven blind kids to tap-dance came to me, I decided I'd make it with kids who were really blind. I visited several schools hunting for my kids until I came to the 'Happy Home School For The Blind'. What I saw there changed my life. The children were so happy so well-adjusted to their routine and not at all defeated by their deficiency," says Bhatia.
Out of all the wonderful kids that the director met, he chose Gaurav, Mukesh, Rahul, Sanjay, Pradeep, Saif and Shrikant. Two of them suffered a terminal illness.
Reveals Bhatia, "So we had to exercise that extra bit of precaution with them. They're all between the ages of 6 and 10. All very bright and natural performers. The school was initially hesitant to let the kids undergo the grueling experience of facing the camera. But once my intentions were made clear, the kids became a part of my extended family."
It took Kumar Bhatia a year to find the suitable children. "Then it took another year to teach them to tap- dance. By the end of our workshops the blind kids could 'see' every frame in every shot. They performed completely oblivious of their handicap."
Besides the kids, Seven features an impressive cast comprising Lilette Dubey, K K Menon and Makrand Deshpande. Farooq Sheikh plays the narrator while Nauheed Cyrusi is the teacher who teaches the kids to tap-dance. The director himself plays a brief role.
After living for four years with this unique project, Kumar Bhatia feels vindicated. "It has been a learning experience. And I hope Seven gets an audience that would appreciate all the effort that has gone into it."