After fashion shoot, documentary on acid attack survivors

After five acid attack victims -- all women came forward for a designerwear fashion photoshoot by him, photographer Rahul Saharan is now chronicling their moving life stories in a new documentary film.

New Delhi: After five acid attack victims -- all women came forward for a designerwear fashion photoshoot by him, photographer Rahul Saharan is now chronicling their moving life stories in a new documentary film.

The in-the-works film portrays lives of the six people - all who survived brutal acid attacks and their attempts to get their lives back on the track.

"It does not matter from whichever profession you come, you can always do something for society. I wanted to show how these victims have been fighting with their life, trying to recover, earn money and rehabilitate. I want to spread awareness among people with this film," Sharan told PTI.

Sharan has been associated with the campaign "Stop Acid Attack" and recently conducted a photoshoot with Laxmi, Rupa, Chanchal, Ritu and Sonam -- victims of acid attacks, who posed wearing clothes designed by Rupa.

"I wanted no makeup and editing in the pictures. I wanted them to look beautiful naturally. I tried to change the age long perception of beauty that is fed in the minds of the people," says Sharan.

Laxmi Saa along with Alok Dixit started the "Stop Acid Attack" campaign to regulate the free sale of acid in shops and to help rehabilitate victims.

"We have interviewed six victims for the film set to be around 30 minutes to 40 minutes. We want people to see how much they struggled and how they are overcoming their trials. We hope their stories would spread awareness among people," says Sharan.

The sole male voice in the upcoming film is provided by Chandrahass, who hails from Meerut and who says he was attacked with acid by his wealthy landlord.

The M.Com student, who left an insurance sector job to help his father manage the family shop, says he had a 5 litre bucket of acid thrown on him for reportedly coming to the defence of a girl who was being eveteased.

"The accused has contacts with politicians and that's how he is free. I have mortgaged my things, sold off gold to meet expenses of my treatment and also to hire an advocate after my landlord's son filed a case in which he alleged that I was the one who attacked him with acid," says Chandrahass.

Chandrahass recalls the day when he met with the attack.

"My whole body was burning. I crawled on the streets to save myself from a second bucket of acid. My hair started coming off. I could not see anything neither could I call anyone for help. Water doused on me had a reverse reaction on the burns," recalls Chandrahass.

Being a victim of such a heinous crime, Chandrahass says he had been closely following the campaign - 'Stop Acid Attack' where he came in contact with other victims at 'Chaanv', a support centre for survivors run by the campaign.

Shy in front of the camera, Chandrahass says he has not been able to speak much in the documentary.

"I did not face the camera ever and was nervous. Had there been no camera I would have spoken my heart out," says the man who usually shields his face with his hands or some cloth stepping out in public.

"I just want help in understanding the various sections of the law. I don't have any money to spend on the advocate and I have huge debt on my shoulders. I hope the documentary will come forward to assist," he says.

The documentary itself is a work in progress with about 70 percent completed.

"Nothing has been finalised as yet. We constantly toying with new ideas," says Laxmi.

"I am not investing any money in the documentary. So far I have shot 70-80 per cent of the documentary and have not spent even Rs 5 from my pocket. This is not a commercial movie and I don't intend to make any kind of profit. If there is any kind of profit, it will go to the NGO ? Chaanv," says Sharan.

"I plan to send the documentary to different film fests and if it receives accolades there, then I would screen it everywhere possible including schools and colleges to spread awareness," he says.

Meanwhile, Chaanv is assisting Rupa to open a boutique, efforts are also being made to help Laxmi pursue her dreams. The upcoming documentary would either have poetry or maybe a song sung by Laxmi.

"I have requested my friend who is music composer to give Laxmi a break. She would probably get a break to sing and live her dream in the upcoming project," says Sharan.

As for Ritu, who hails from Rohtak in Haryana her dreams of becoming a ace volleyball player was cut short when a pair of boys dumped acid on her while she was on her way to practice. Now because of her health she can no longer play.

"Given a chance I would want to pursue a career in sports. I was never interested in studies neither did I want to go to college," says Ritu who now assists Rupa in making designer clothes.

At the Chaanv centre Laxmi, Chandrahass, Ritu and Rupa befriended one another and talk about among other things their surgeries. They talked about the pain they had to suffer and discomfort when they wear "Pressure Garments" -special contraptions that are used to stretch the skin after an operation.

"I get goose bumps when I think of wearing the Pressure Garment. I did not wear it after the surgery which is why I have to undergo a surgery of the neck again," says Ritu.  

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