The Silent Heroes
115 Minutes / Hindi / India / 2014
Director: Mahesh Bhatt
Producer: Kamal Birani , Mahesh Bhatt
Executive Producer: Dr. Piyoosh Rautela
Creative producer: Maanuv Bharadwaj
Cast: Maanuv Bhardawaj, Priyanka Panchal , Mann Bagga , Simran Deep, Tarun Bhargav, Gurfareen Bano, Khwaish Gupta, Aashish Chauhan, Jaideep and 8 other Child Artist
Original Author: B. Mahesh
Screenplay: Dr Piyoosh Rautela, Rituraj Bhatt
DOP: Roopang Acharya
Editor: Alok Singh
Lyrics and Music: Rahul Mishra
Background score: Aashish Jha
Sound Designer: Narendra Sinha
Aspect Ratio: 1:2.35 (16:9)
Sound: Digital Stereo (5.1)
In the misty atmosphere of Uttarakhand, Kapil Malhotra, a retired military officer teaches mountaineering to local kids when Gauri Singh, a school teacher in deaf school approaches him with an offer. She wants the kids in deaf school who are often labeled in society as handicaps and outcaste to go on a mountaineering expedition. Gauri’s late Fiancée Kshitij, who died during an expedition in the snow laden mountains of Uttarakhand, had a dream to do something about deaf kids. Gauri wants to turn dreams of Kshitij in realities.
Kapil agrees to help Gauri, partly as he is guilt ridden himself since he was the captain of the rescue team which went to find Kshitij. Kapil reaches the school and chooses 13 students for the expedition. All the students are then taken to the NIM (Nehru Institute of Mountaineering).
The training begins under a professional trainer named Dipanker who was an old colleague of Kshitij. The local and national media is singing praises of this giant effort of NIM20. Institute Principal Col. Thapa hires a woman named Hima Singh to provide physical training to the children, who coming from a hard military background doesn’t understand the real purpose behind the expedition and tries too hard to train children. Kapil tries to stop her rigorous training schedules but she refuses to listen to anyone. Things start turning upside down when Dipanker gets injured during an accident mishap while training session. To save him, Kapil hurts his hands too. The expedition dream comes to a halt. Unable to change the dates of expedition as whole country is watching the progress and it is the only chance for kids to show their true worth to the world. Considering odd circumstances, Col. Thapa decides to send the team for expedition under the guidance of Hima.
Hima and team of kids move to the dangerous mountains of Uttarakhand. Few days into expedition, another major accident occurs in which Hima and her assistant Rajendra falls down a cliff and gets injured. Rajendra is send down to the base camp but Hima decides to move on her own considering herself to be all right. As time passes, internal injuries of Hima surfaces up. She still remains mean to kids. One morning kids find out that Hima is laying unconsciousness in her tent. Kids decide to help her when she awakens up. She scoffs them off. But soon realizes that her leg is suffering immense pain and if not immediately treated it might have to be cut off. She tells kids that she has called for help and the new expedition team will reach to them very soon and also she is leaving to nearby base camp for medical attention. She walks few feet before falling down unconscious again. The kids are confused about what to do.
On the other side there is uproar in media hearing about the expedition accidents. Col. Thapa assures everyone that everything is fine since Hima is with them. Gauri and Kapil are tensed and are wondering whether they got over ambitious and had put kids into danger.
The kids on the other side try to give CPR to Hima to wake her up. She does wake up, thanks kids for saving her life but falls unconscious again due to weakness. Kids decide to take her to the base camp themselves and devices a plan to make a raft from their sleeping bags to carry her downstream where base camp is located. The kids show amazing capabilities of intelligence and team spirit by creating a makeshift raft and choosing four kids among themselves by voting who will be rafters. They use shovel as oar and begin their adventure.
Kapil in the mean time distressed by hearing the failed expedition takes out the diary of Kshitij which he always wanted to give to Gauri but never could as he was afraid to reveal his identity to her. While he is reading the dairy, Gauri comes in by surprise and finds about the diary. Gauri turns red with anger realizing that Kapil was actually the man who had lead the rescue team and blames him for the death of Kshitij. She also accuses him to have an ulterior motive of getting over his guilt by helping the deaf kids instead of having any noble motive.
Kapil has broken down now and feels more accused than he is charged of. Kapil decides to not wait anymore and moves on to find the kids himself despite his injury. Gauri on the other hand decides to compensate for her inability to find Kshitij by taking concrete steps this time. The raft is rowing downstream with kids trying really hard to stay on the makeshift raft. Finally they reach downstream where Gauri locates them but one of the rescue team workers finds out that there is a rapid down the river which even the professional rafters can’t stand. Kapil is running towards the mountains when he finds a kid sitting on a rock. The kid tells him what has happened.
Gauri in panic shouts at kids, forgetting that they cannot hear. She takes another raft and decides to move towards them on her own but falls down owing to her inexperience in rafting. The rescue team too moves towards it. The makeshift raft is fast moving towards the rapid and there is very less time to save the kids and Hima. Kapil comes back in town and finds the raft excessively moving towards the rapid. He uses his military experience and saves them on time. During all the commotion, Hima wakes and sees how kids she scorned all the time has saved her life and feels grateful towards kids. The children are awarded the medals and honours for their bravery and are further recommended to president’s gold medal for bravery. Media goes ga-ga over the kids and news channels are flooded with their bravery stories. Having filled Kshitij’s dream, Kapil and Gauri moves back to their respective lives.
My first encounter with the world of silence was five years back in a school for special children while making a documentary on deaf kids. It left a great impact on my mind as I had never experienced anything like that before. World calls them handicap but after spending time with them I felt like a handicap in their world and to understand their life, signals and actions.
I realized that they are not disabled, but simply differently able; and the same thought later became the premise and foundation for my film ‘The Silent Heroes’. With that one liner I moved ahead to this adventurous journey and conceptualized whole story after that.
Next step – Real heroes : 13 real deaf kids. Location : Snow laden mountains of Himalayas. And between the fast flow of Ganges and its frequent rapids, we tried to capture the Uttarakhand’s beauty and life as it was before the disaster of 2013.
I wanted to do the film with real deaf kids who have actually gone through the pain and hardships of being a handicap because only they could have done justice to the roles, and they have. I chose real locations for more realistic approach. I knew it would be a challenge for me and I knew it would be much more than a challenge for these kids. I was sceptical at first about inexperienced innocent kids being able to do what was required in script or being able to withstand unfavourable climatic conditions and hard shooting schedules. But I was surprised to see the enthusiasm and excitement of the kids which cleared off all the doubts from my mind.
Shooting during the scary cold winter of February, I remember sometimes we had to go early foggy morning before sunrise to locations and sometimes stay near scary rivers at night amidst cold skin piercing air waiting for shots to be canned. Crew members weren’t even able to stand but they did. Professional artists were giving retakes but never called quits. And in between all this, those 13 kids showed us a strange amount of courage and will power by not just withstanding the angry climate but giving first take OK shots. They were the real source of inspiration and motivation for all of us.
Before shooting started I used to feel that I should tell the life tales of these brave kids to the world. During shooting, I wished to tell the parents of kids about how talented and skilful they were; parents who normally look down upon their own kids. But after the shooting I have now realized that something has changed inside me in those 40 days. I think I have come out as a better man out of this beautiful experience. It never be compensated what these 13 little deaf kids has taught me about life, in signs.
Mahesh Bhatt began as a journalist, activist & socio-environmental documentary film maker 15 years back . He has travelled extensively through India & produced, directed and written several documentaries, Docu-drama series, news capsules and TV programs based on grass root issues of various regions. His programs were telecast through various Television channels including National Network Television in India. Later he began making digital short films for disseminating information with entertainment to audience beyond theatrical reach, especially in remote villages of Uttarakhand region of Himalaya. THE SILENT HEROES is his first full length feature film as an attempt to tell a beautiful soulful story to wider audience and touch lives on a wider landscape.