Not Born into a Brothel


‘From a Calcutta brothel to a New York University,’ reports the BBC today on one of the eight children who were featured in the 2004 documentary Born into Brothels, a remarkable film about finding hope through art for some of the most unfortunate young residents of a red light district in Calcutta. During shooting, the children were, through the Director Zana Briski’s charity Kids with Cameras, taught photography and equipped with cameras to record their lives on film-all with Briski’s underlying aim of offering them a way to discover opportunities beyond their presumed fate of cyclical poverty and prostitution. Rotten summed the film up well when it called it a story ‘marred by tragedy and heartbreak,’ but ‘ultimately a testament to the immense power of art, even in the bleakest of environments.’

And in its synopsis of Born into Brothels, the movie website makes special mention of one of the title characters-Avijit Halder, who at the time was ‘a rotund, serious 11-year-old of immense talent,’ it says, with a particularly sad story, having experienced his mother’s murder by her pimp during the filming. 

And it’s that Halder, now a 20-year old college student at New York University’s Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, who is the subject of the aforementioned BBC piece. Halder left Calcutta for the US back in 2005, and supported financially by Kids with Cameras, and then more recently with a grant from NYU, he has managed to find prospects and dreams far beyond what would have been available to him in his hometown. According to this latest update, the budding filmmaker, who eventually wants to create his own film about prostitution and circumstance, is also compiling a series of photos taken in India and the United States while learning Spanish and French.

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This kind of story is just the perfect sort of uplifting tale to come across on my Monday morning commute–and it’s even nicer to hear that Kids with Cameras will soon be opening a school in Calcutta called Hope House. This will be, according to them: ‘a nurturing safe haven where up to 100 girls from Calcutta’s red light district can come to live and develop the strength and skills to change their own circumstance.’

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