Slum princess: On Arsala Qureishi and Jas Sagu's short film Live Your Fairy Tale
Filmmaker Arsala Qureishi and blogger, musician, actor and director Jas Sagu's latest short film Live Your Fairy Tale is a documentation of a unique experience
Five children who live under a tarpaulin cover in a Mumbai slum eat at a restaurant for the first time in their lives. Filmmaker Arsala Qureishi and blogger, musician, actor and director Jas Sagu's latest short film Live Your Fairy Tale is a true documentation of this experience.
In February 2020, Hollywood actor Robert Hoffman had flown to Mumbai to launch a Bollywood music video in which he acted. As the world went into lockdown, he could not return home. He discovered Maleesha Kharwa, a 12-year-old girl who lives in a slum in Bandra.
At the age of five, Kharwa had decided to become a model and actor. Seeing her potential and with her father’s permission and guidance, Hoffman became her agent and helped to make her dream come true. There has been no looking back for this ‘slum princess’ ever since.
Kharwa began her career as a fearless child model and social media influencer. An internet sensation, her stunning photoshoots and videos on Instagram have gathered 141K followers and climbing. In October last year, she was featured on the cover of The Peacock Magazine. As she paves the way for equality and economic freedom in her family, Kharwa has become an inspiration for countless young girls in her community.
The seven-minute self-funded film, which released on Kharwa's YouTube Channel on April 16, is raw and observational cinema at its best - unscripted, non-manufactured storytelling without a script. The filmmakers simply recorded their first meeting with Kharwa and her friends, hence the footage comprises candid shots and dialogues in real-time.
Capturing scenes of the children, complete with thrills and giggles were moments of sheer joy and happiness, or ‘Disney Moments’ as the crew calls them. The film contains an element of Slumdog Millionaire and is mostly aimed at the western audience.
"It is impossible to write a script that is driven by euphoric, first-time emotions. We extracted the most coherent moments from which we used to weave a story. The camera moved to the symphony of the unknown," explains Sagu.
While Kharwa’s education is of prime focus at the moment, the filmmakers are discussing and finalising a project with an international Academy Award-winning collaborator. Kharwa will be the creative force of the project, which will be driven by her and her life story.
Qureishi and Sagu's company, Blow Broadcast, often chases human stories like this slum child’s. Currently, they are writing the manuscript and screenplay adaptation of Separated by Ten Inches for an OTT platform - a contemporary love story set against precarious times.
"We live in a world where we are all separated by 10 inches and a history," says Qureishi, who is remembered most notably for her 2015 film Angry Indian Goddesses.