Born into Brothels


Born into Brothels is an amazingly inspiring and uplifting documentary that puts other narrative documentaries to shame. The widely acclaimed film, written and directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman won the Academy Award back in 2005.

I picked it up only because I had heard a lot about it and I thought I could get a pointer or two on filming a documentary but I was moved immensely for different reasons altogether.


Zana Briski , a documentary photographer went to the red light districts of Calcutta to photograph prostitutes and their lives. She befriended their children in the meanwhile and decided to teach them photography seeing their interest and enthusiasm. The film goes to show the lives of these children of sex workers and the things that they have to go through. Anyone who goes to argue that ‘family life’ is a lot more valued in India will be shocked to see young girls forced into prostitution. Their fathers just sit around drugged and apathetic all day and open their mouths either to eat or abuse. The mothers are no better; constantly beating and abusing the kids. However, by the end you realise that these relationships are strange indeed; no matter how the sex workers treat their children, there exists a very wierd maternal bond.


The children are given cameras and they go on a clicking spree. Seeing things through their eyes is, forgive the cliche, an eye opening experience. The film uses mostly just pictures and expressions to weave a very painful story interspersed with short bursts of narration by Briski. There are some very funny moments thanks to the playful children and by the end of it you really do care about them.

Sadly, as always in real life, things do not turn well for most of them. One person cannot do anything to counter hundereds of years of narrow mindedness and Indian bureaucracy. However you have to hand it to Briski for coming down to one of the worst places on the planet without any visible false pretensions. She does admit that she is not a social worker and this is what brings a sense of truth into the entire excercise.

More on this can be found at

Also posted on The (Strictly Indian) Frontal Lobe 


One Response to “Born into Brothels”

  1. 1 soorajrox

    after reading this post, I want to see the documentary myself…..guess that more than solutions we need a heart to change all this in our country
    thinking about it…. I am no different than some of the NRI’s (whom i told you about or any other people) who just ‘yap’ about our failed constitution.

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