PRIMEHOUSE - as SALES All rights, World

Children's - Development 2013

On the countdown of WW2, 640 moribound orphaned Polish refugee children are being rescued from a Russian Gulag to an Indian Palace by a merciful Maharaja. In this exotic asylum the children slowly learn to believe again.
A great humanitarian story told from a children’s point of view.

    • Year of production
    • 2013
    • Genres
    • Children's, Historical, Documentary
    • Countries
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • 0.3 - 0.6 M$
    • Duration
    • 79 mn
    • Synopsis
    • After Stalin’s brutal invasion into Poland on the countdown to WW2, there are thousands of orphaned Polish children in camps in the Soviet Union. Hitler’s occupation of Poland in the West makes it impossible for the children to return to their homeland. On top of everything, the world community shows utmost political reluctance in resolving this humongous humanitarian crisis.
      Only one single Indian Maharaja, King Digvijaysinji of the modest princely state of Jamnagar in British India, offers to take 500 of these starving and dying children back to his homeland. Without financial backing from the British Indian government, he sets up a camp with a school next to his palace and brings the children to a country and a people they have never seen before. Coming from a place that has taught them not to trust anyone in this world, these orphans suddenly get everything a child could dream of: warm and dry clothes, food abound and a nice place to play, to learn and to sleep.
      The film takes the perspective of the children: What does it mean for a war-torn orphan child to be thrown into an immensely exotic environment and being offered Paradise out of the blue? What makes an Indian Maharaja do this? And how does the culture clash in this diaspora design everyday life and change world views on both, the Polish and the Indian side?
      Thanks to the Maharaja’s grand humanitarian “gesture”, the formerly abandoned Polish children slowly learn to believe again. The proposed film is to bring to light to the young generation a little known fact of history that is of great humanitarian value in contemporary times.
      Focus & Narrative Structure
      The documentary is not only to pay homage to and eulogize the large hearted Maharaja. The power of the story is to see what impact that act of kindness had upon the children and upon the Indians who interacted with them. Besides telling the facts, the documentary is drawing out how this Indian experience impacted the Polish children’s world view as they became adults. Did it help them cope with the trauma of being orphaned and having seen the horrors of war up close? What influence did the culture of India have on these children? What relevance did the culture of Poland have for those Indians who lived with and raised the kids? How has this event in history influenced the political, cultural and economic relationships between Poland and India?
      In respect to the fact that we are telling the story of children, the documentary is anchored by two children narrators – early teens, one Polish and one Indian who might be grand children of those who were saved. The story will unfold as a class project in a school in Warsaw named by the Maharaja and an Indian school in Balachadi, Jamnagar where the Polish children had stayed and studied from 1942 to 1946 and today Indian children study. The film starts in present time by listening to the Polish and the Indian class in parallel while they are trying to research the story of Jamsaheb’s Children. As we cut across time, space, archive material and real time action, the two children not only give us the basic facts of the story through their voice over. Much more importantly they interact with the other kids in class and try to take the perspective of the Polish orphans who, 70 years ago, went through this highly emotional time in their lives. Rather than asking dry adult interview questions, the kids will want to know how it was to be a teenager at that time, if there were any romances between the Poles and the Indians and how long they could stay up at night. The answers to these questions will come from hilarious, heart‐warming anecdotes narrated by one of the ‘survivors’ bringing out more personalized and emotional nuggets from bitter sweet memories. The perspective of modern day children intercut with interviews with the seventy- or eighty-year-olds , will be enlightening and entertaining as these ‘survivors’ are talking about their experiences as teens and their world view during that time. Ultimately, the two narrators together with their classes will pull the various strings together and surprise their great grandparents as well as the audience by organizing a re‐union between the Polish survivors and the Indians who took care of them in Jamsaheb.
      This narrative perspective allows us to get around the outworn method of taking only a distant look on dry facts and figures of history. This documentary will deal and interact with the past in a playful, emotional and also a humorous way – through children’s eyes.
      The Cross-medial Potential of the Culture Clash
      To tap the full potential of the topic of THE CHILDREN OF JAMSAHEB we will make culture clash a principle already during the production of the film: From the first day of shooting we will connect the children from the Polish with the children from the Indian class via the World Wide Web, e.g. with video conference and a blog. Via the internet, the students will also be able to ask their questions directly to the older survivors who live on the other side of the globe. We will have three parallel shooting units – one in Poland, one in India, and one with our survivors – whose cameras will bear witness to the virtual encounter of Young and Old as well as Polish and Indian.
      And not only will our protagonists benefit from the cross-medial expansion of our project. Today the diasporic community of Polish refugees from India is spread all around the globe. We will approach and involve this target audience from a very early stage on: People from all over the world are able to watch excerpts from the film shoot or read discussions about having been a Polish refugee in India in the blog. They will be invited and encouraged to take part in the discussions and tell their own stories. This way, the film THE CHILDREN OF JAMSAHEB not only brings its emotional story to a big audience. In its cross-medial extension it also initiates a constant re-union of the former orphans and creates a virtual home for the Polish-Indian diaspora, as well as a sustainable platform for discussions between the generations.
      Historical Background & Relevance
      The story of the Maharajah’s children is a major component of the history of Poles in India. Even if it’s not the only story of Poles in India, the story about the 640 saved children was the first and initial one for all those who followed.
      When the war ended, the communist government of Poland wanted to repatriate the orphans. The children, backed by their teachers and the thousands of Polish refugees in other camps in India, did not want to return to Poland, which had never been a home to them. Before it became a diplomatic issue blowing out of proportion, the Maharajah legally adopted each one of the children and became their ‘father’. Soon after, the children were readopted by various Polish families in India, around the globe, and a few of them returned to Poland finally.
      To this date, the ‘Indian’ connection binds these ‘survivors’ of various nationalities. They are all of Polish origin but also have a bit of India in them. They founded an association and maintain ties with the town of Jamnagar, which is now part of the Indian state of Gujarat. The ‘Poles of India’ mostly in their seventies and eighties, regularly meet to raise a toast to their ‘Bapu’ (father) Maharaja Jamsaheb Digviaysinghji. This documentary is attempting to turn all the ripe old ‘survivors’ into children again. It revisits nostalgia, pranks, romances and emotionally high moments they shared 60 odd years ago.
      The story of THE CHILDREN OF JAMSAHEB is not unknown and several books have been published around this topic, even if until now nobody realized a documentary or feature film on this very emotional narrative. For the film’s historical backbone as well as for anecdotes from everyday life in the Polish-Indian diaspora we largely draw upon the doctoral thesis by Dr. Anuradha Bhattarcharjee. Dr. Anuradha Bhattarcharjee has done substantiated research and documentation of the historical facts and will also guide us during the development and production process of the film.
      We believe that the story about the saving of 640 Polish children by an Indian Maharaja on the backdrop of WW2, the upheaval of Europe and shortly before India’s Independence from Britain is a very important human document that the people of India, Poland and the world at large must know and learn from. Especially in today’s times of growing intolerance, it becomes imperative that a story about humanity cutting across cultural–political barriers must be told urgently.
    • Partners & financing
    • Tramway Production, Poland
      Mixedmedia Production, India
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