A Film By You!
A Film By You!
Roona is a one and a half year old girl born in a tiny village in the state of Tripura, a neglected corner of eastern India. She suffers from Hydrocephalus, a birth defect caused by a build-up of fluid in the brain leading to massive swelling of the head.
Her parents Abdul and Fatema lead a hand-to-mouth existence and struggle to take care of their daughter. Abdul is an illiterate laborer earning 150 rupees a day (less than US$ 3). Their trips to the local government hospitals were in vain as these were poorly equipped to treat Roona. Abdul and Fatema could not afford any better. After being told by doctors here that there was nothing that could be done for Roona they had almost given up hope.
"I didn't think of her as a sick child. I always thought she was really strong to endure so much pain," Abdul said(AFP). "I figured we would do our best for as long as we could and Allah would help us with the rest."(AFP)
A single photo by a news agency(AFP) changed everything. It put into motion an amazing chain of events that would culminate in free surgery and treatment for Roona at a top private hospital in the nation’s capital. In barely one week, Roona’s story had sprinted across newspapers, magazines, TV channels, social media and more. Help poured in from a crowd-funding group in Norway, a state of the art hospital in Delhi, the royal family of Tripura and finally a documentary film crew from Bangalore, India (A.K.A. us!)
We set out to document a magical story of compassion and inclusiveness which is still running its course as Roona walks the road to recovery. As we scratched the surface of this inspiring story, we discovered a whole world of facts and unanswered questions that no one seemed keen to raise.
We realized that Roona’s condition was a result of an unprepared and irresponsible healthcare system. We found that thousands of children like Roona are born with birth defects (congenital anomalies) every day but are ignored because their stories are not deemed ‘sensational’ enough.
Roona has won a rare lottery and while the world celebrates her second chance, others like her are being sent home to wither in silence. This is why we have committed to making this documentary. Our vision is to create something that:
In the last few months, we have already captured extensive footage of Roona and her surgeries, and interviewed her parents and doctors and the wider medical fraternity.
In the next few months we will travel to Tripura to understand the circumstances Roona comes from and then to rural hospitals, government-run health camps and other state-run health infrastructure. We will interview public health officers and students at government-run medical colleges. Finally, we will identify and document other children from rural areas who suffer from congenital conditions to understand how the health mechanism in the country has supported them (after Roona’s story grabbed headlines, two other families from Tripura with children suffering from extreme cases of hydrocephalus were also discovered and the numbers continue to rise every day).
Our belief is that at the end of this journey we will have a film that raises awareness about how underprivileged children in this country have little to no access to healthcare.
Baby Roona in Tripura Home - Photo Courtesy TripuraIndia.com
Fatema patiently watches over Roona - Photo Courtesy TripuraIndia.com
'Rooting for Roona' is not just a film; it is a collaboration between us and anyone who believes that they can help make a difference.
Our vision is to bring to light as many cases like Roona’s as possible and travel to two more states other than Tripura, in order to understand and document the ground reality in terms of congenital healthcare in this country. We need a total of about $120,000 USD to cover costs of production and post-production. We have raised $52000 USD through our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and hope to raise the rest along the way. All funds we raise will go towards the making of our documentary. The money will be spent on research, equipment, crew, post-production and travel and accommodation.
If you want to make a contribution via PayPal(International) or cheque(India), please follow the steps given below:
Thank you for bringing 'Rooting for Roona' to life!
A very special thank you to Hema Hattangady without whose support 'Rooting for Roona' would never have come to be.
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Baby Roona Begum is bornRoona was born in a tiny village in the state of Tripura with a birth defect known as hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus, also called ‘water on the brain’, is a birth defect that causes build up of fluid in the brain leading to progressive enlargement of the head, mental disability, convulsions and possible death.
Photo of Baby Roona released by the media - (Courtesy Tripuraindia.com)Team CurleyStreet comes across Roona’s story, and is inspired to help bring this amazing story to light.
Crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for Roona’s treatment is launched by Norwegian citizen Nathalie Krantz on MyGoodAct - (Courtesy Tripuraindia.com)
Fortis Healthcare group in Delhi/Gurgaon offers to help Baby Roona
Roona and parents arrive in Delhi/Gurgaon
Team CurleyStreet meets Baby Roona BegumTeam CurleyStreet travels to Delhi and heads straight to the private hospital where Roona’s evaluation and treatment have begun. The team meets with Roona’s parents for the first time. They are nervous but glad that their child is finally receiving the medical attention she requires. Her father, Abdul Rehman, tells us:
“When she was born, I thought her head was too large, but if we gave it time and if she got a little healthier, she would become all right. Then day by day we saw her head getting bigger. We knew then that it was an illness taking form, and it was becoming a huge problem.”Roona’s mother Fatema tells us how they despaired after being turned away by the major hospitals in the state.
“Doctors told me there was no treatment for her here and that she must be taken outside. There was no hope for her here. They gave no guarantees about whether she would survive or not.”
Team CSM gets to Know RoonaTeam CurleyStreet spends time with Roona and her parents and realise that if she had received treatment early on, her condition would not have deteriorated to this extent. Hydrocephalus is a condition that affects one in every 400 children and is easily treatable if medical intervention comes at the right time.
Preparation for Roona’s surgery is underwayBaby Roona begins to respond well to treatment as doctors at Fortis prepare her for surgery by slowly draining fluid from her brain. "We are hopeful that she will make a complete recovery. The challenge is to drain her brain fluid in a gradual manner so that the brain adapts to it”, says Dr. Sandeep Vaishya, the head neurosurgeon on Roona's case. Roona’s parents, Abdul and Fatema are relieved that the size of her head is gradually reducing and they can finally see her eyes again. When asked about the imminent surgery, Roona’s father says, "I have no fear. Only hope."
Getting to the heart of the issueAs we spend more time interacting with Roona, her parents and her doctors, we begin to discover that Roona’s condition is the result of fundamental flaws in the way healthcare is delivered to poor children in India.
Roona undergoes her first surgeryAt 10.00 a.m. Baby Roona goes in for her first surgery, which is primarily a cosmetic remodeling of her skull. The surgery is successful, and as Roona recuperates, doctors at Fortis sound optimistic about her progress. Her parents are overjoyed to see that the size of her head has reduced from 94cm to 67cm. Their new-found optimism is apparent in their demeanour.
A documentary sourced by the public for the publicAs Roona recuperates from her first major surgery, the team dedicates itself to giving shape to its dream of making a documentary that will help shape public opinion about healthcare and help push for much needed reforms in the child health space.
Roona’s second surgeryDoctors conduct the major surgery to insert a shunt into Roona’s brain to drain the fluid towards her abdomen where it can be absorbed easily into the blood. “The surgery went perfectly, better than expected”, says Dr. Sandeep Vaishya, as he exits the operation theatre. Going by Roona’s response so far, doctors are hopeful that she will make a complete recovery and regain most if not all of her faculties in time. Roona’s parents, who’s only prayer is to see Roona walk, talk and play like any other child, are overwhelmed by the sight of their daughter covered in surgery scars and bandages lying in bed. They regain their composure after talking to the doctors.
Campaign preparations beginWe return to Bangalore and start putting together our campaign on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. We leave no stone unturned in ensuring that every bit of our conviction in the film and its purpose will reach everyone.
Roona’s recovery continuesRoona is shifted from the intensive care unit (ICU) to a general ward. She has begun to react to stimuli and shows signs of cognition.
Another Major StepAfter a string of minor surgeries, Roona undergoes another to continue the process of remodeling of her skull. Doctors say that this may be the last of a series of procedures required in the current phase. Roona's head has shrunk to approximately 60 cm and doctors believe it will shrink further after this successful operation. Team CurleyStreet hopes and prays that she is now truly on the path to recovery.
Our Campaign goes live on Indiegogo!The team cannot wait to have everyone on board!
'Rooting for Roona' is as much your film as it is ours!
"We are storytellers who believe in the power of cinema for positive change. Our Films are about hope" - Pavitra Chalam
We are CurleyStreet Media, an independent film production house based in Bangalore, India founded by documentary film-maker Pavitra Chalam. We focus on making films on social issues and the power of the human spirit - stories about real people, real issues. We are a bunch of young passionate people who believe that film is a medium with the power to affect people deeply and spark change; that we can change the world one frame at a time.
You can get to know more about us on our website: CurleyStreet Media
Over the years, Pavitra and CurleyStreet have created films which raise awareness on issues ranging from drug addiction and rehabilitation, cancer, mental health, disability and special needs, women and children’s rights, to sports in India and the environment.
PAVITRA CHALAM – DIRECTOR/ CEO OF CURLEYSTREET MEDIA
Pavitra Chalam makes films to highlight social issues that are important and to showcase moments that are precious to the fabric of change. She brings light to the world through the magical and powerful medium of film. On her journey as a storyteller and a champion of change there has been no hesitation, no looking back. Providing hope for those in need and inspiring the public to take action are core to Pavitra’s work in film.
In 2011, Pavitra launched CurleyStreet Media which has been named India’s first social justice film production company.
In 2013 Pavitra completed a feature documentary called 'Indelible’, which captures the stories of seven people with Down syndrome, living in India. Since then 'Indelible' has won many awards and accolades across the globe. In March 2014, Pavitra was awarded the Asia-Pacific Award for Outstanding New Documentary Talent at the DocWeek film festival in Adelaide, Australia for 'Indelible’.
Pavitra is recognized as a global change agent. She made her directorial debut with ‘Bus’ (a film that made its mark at the Youth Initiative for Peace in Pakistan), was a journalist at the World Youth Congress in Morocco, travelled across Europe in 2004 as an Ambassador of the NGO – Peace Child International, and in 2010 she received an Ability Media International (AMI) Award in London 2010 for Khushboo, a film about children with complex needs.
Pavitra graduated from the New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking Program. She received her B.A. in History, Political Science and Economics in 2002 from Mount Carmel. Also, Pavitra completed a course in broadcast journalism at the Asian College of Journalism.
VANITA BOSWELL : EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Vanita Boswell, PhD, is the Executive Producer for the film Rooting for Roona. She leads fund- raising activities for the film and is also the largest investor in the documentary. Her passion and commitment to ‘Rooting for Roona’ stems from the intrinsic belief that an investment in a human being will positively impact the economy of the world. She has partnered with CurleyStreet Media to create a grass roots movement that will inspire audiences across the globe to invest, volunteer and build awareness to advance the health of the Indian child. Vanita continues to leverage global avenues to raise funds for the film.
Vanita is also the Founder and CEO of VALO Group, LLC, a fundraising firm in the U.S. dedicated to raising and securing socially responsible investments to harness the power of positive enterprise. Prior to launching VALO, she served as the Chief Development Executive for the Girl Scouts of the USA, where she led and designed the largest fundraising campaign for girls in the world called ToGetHerThere – a billion dollars for girls by 2020. Vanita holds a MS in Psych Counseling and a PhD in Sociology.
AKSHAY SHANKAR : ASSISTANT DIRECTOR/LINE PRODUCER
Akshay Shankar is a Producer/Director at CurleyStreet Media. After working with an Investment Bank for four years, Akshay chose to put the mundane numbers to rest and pursue his passion for filmmaking. Since his foray into cinema, Akshay has donned many hats like that of director, producer, and writer. His innate ability to understand and execute both the creative and business aspects of a production sets him apart from others in the industry.
JYOLSNA BALAKRISHNAN: EDITOR
Having cut and refined over 70 Corporate Films, 5 Documentaries, 3 Short Films and several event videos, the editing room is Jo's haven. Jo is renowned for her incredible stamina while chopping and changing without a break for literally days on end. She is also a trained classical singer/dancer. As an artist and a musician, Jo brings deep sensitivity and style to the CurleyStreet table.
ASHWIN CHALAM : EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Before taking on the mantle of CFO of CurleyStreet Media, Ashwin was an Executive Director/ Vice President at Goldman Sachs International working out of the London and Bangalore offices. In his six years at the World’s leading investment bank, Ashwin sailed through any crisis with panache. His entry into the film world brought structure and precision to the Curley Table.
Tejesh Kiran - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
With 3 Feature Films, 15 Documentaries, 18 Ad Films and more than 20 Corporate Films under his belt, Kiran brings a wealth of experience to every CurleyStreet production. Many have tried in vain to pose a problem to Kiran which doesn't elicit his legendary "I'll take care of it" assurance; and he does, every single time. His monk like calm, infectious laughter and unmatched discipline makes him "The Rock of CurleyStreet".
ANANYA ROY: PRODUCTION MANAGER
An English Literature major turned IT professional followed her first love for movies and showed up at CurleyStreet, determined to stay. The aspiring filmmaker from Kolkata has been everything from costume designer to social media expert to script writer at CurleyStreet. Her ability to hold fort amidst production mayhem is her strength.
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