'Smile Pinkie' opens for Indian audiences: Grand finale was in Varanasi on October 9

'Smile Pinkie' opens for Indian audiences
Grand finale was in Varanasi on October 9
Kulsum Mustafa

LUCKNOW: Eight months after 'Smile Pinkie', won the Oscar at the 81st Academy Award function for documentary on the lives of children with cleft on 23 February 2009, the film opened up for Indian audiences in Mumbai. The 39 minute documentary, which has remained the global hot favorite of the social and development sector, is being screened in cinema halls of Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi. The red carpet grand finale was held in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, the home district of both the protagonist of the film, Pinkie and Dr Subodh Singh, the plastic surgeon who operated on Pinkie.

Dr Singh, head of GS Memorial Plastic Surgery Hospital and Trauma Centre Varanasi, is part of the surgeons team attached to 'Smile Train' mission, an international charity that helps children with cleft and palate deformity.

Over 1.5 lakh surgeries have been done all over India on children with cleft. Dr Singh and his team have done 13,000 operations in Varanasi in the past five years. Over 160 hospitals and 250 surgeons are associated with Smile Train in India.

Smile Pinkie is a real world fairy tale that brings into focus the world of Dr Singh who is providing free surgery to fix the cleft lip of poor young children. The central character of the film is the six year old Pinkie - who is a poor rural girl living with her cleft chin deformity. The film was shot in Varanasi and Mirzapur. The director of the film Megan Mylan, Dr Singh, and Pinkie were all part of the team that was present for the opening. The film has not been dubbed but carries the original sounds.

Media Nest, a Lucknow based pan India media professions organization that works for the welfare of journalists and their families had in collaboration with UNICEF screened the movie for a private audience at Uttar Pradesh Press Club in March 2009. Dr Singh had on the occasion addressed the media and expressed his mission to wipe out cleft from every corner of India.
"When journalists ask me what are my future plans I tell them: Simply to go out of business" said Dr Singh.

So strong is his sense of commitment to the cause that for him this Oscar is a means to get to every nook and corner of India wherein lurks a cleft child. Every person that he meets he asks them only one thing, "please bring any child with cleft to me."

In fact after winning the Oscar Dr Singh said, "This Oscar is not for one Pinkie but thousands of Pinkies who are still hiding in dark corners, waiting to see light again."

The transformation that Dr Singh has brought into the life of Pinkie is unbelievable. The girl who had no voice some months back, avoided people and used to hide behind the sari pallu of her mother is today a confident, normal child.

The narrative in 'Smile Pinkie' is so simple and natural. It touches your heart and moistens your eyes. The film, which is neither dubbed nor has any sub-titles plays totally on your emotional intellect. It brings out so vividly the trauma, the tragedy depression and severe inferiority complex that a child with cleft undergoes. Suffering from high degree of inferiority complex these children become recluse. These kids are considered evil and bad omen. Shunned by the young and old like all cleft deformed children Pinkie was not allowed to be part of any auspicious occasion. She was ridiculed and teased in school, children called her named and refused to make her part of their world. Slowly like all such children Pinkie also stayed away from them. She built her own world where noone was allowed to enter. She built a wall around herself.

The Smile Train team had the difficult task of convincing Pinkie's parents and Pinkie herself to break this wall, and enter the real world. A reluctant Pinkie took the step forward and what happened is before the world to see.

Fame and recognition was not what Dr Singh has been looking for. "For me every child that is brought to me is like an Oscar nomination, when the child leaves my hospital after the surgery it is an Oscar award, by now I have thousands of Oscars," says the doctor who has made cleft operations his mission in life. Why the Oscars matter to Dr Singh is because it will help him speed up his work, bring awareness and focus on an issue that has long been neglected.

Smile Train has through doctors like Dr Singh taken on a yeoman task- that of bringing back to life little innocent souls who have lost their zeal to live a normal life ever. To such children whose life Smile Train has touched one can feel the magical transformation.

Kulsum Mustafa
(The author is a senior journalist and Secretary-General of Media Nest)

Published in:
Citizen News Service (CNS), India/Thailand
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Movie Industry Today