CAPSULE: In large numbers homeless children in India come to live on the platforms of train stations. There are eleven million platform children, and more than three hundred a day joins them. Almost all will be abused, raped, enslaved by drugs or will turn to crime. It is a law of the jungle society with the strong abusing the weak. Stories and accounts fall from the victims' lips so fast one almost cannot keep up with the subtitles. Director Anna Fischer takes us to the platforms and interviews the children to get accounts of their every-day lives. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Director Anna Fischer takes us through the train stations of India to show a desperate sub-society of young Indians with no place else to go living on or around train station platforms.
For many Indians, the government can do little to help them. The destitute and homeless have to live by their wits. This is especially true of children living on their own. Each year over 120,000 go to join the swelling society of "platform children" living around the railroads. Here they have a society all their own but run by gangs. With nobody to protect them, they usually need to join gangs to protect themselves. They get what pleasure from life they can. 90% turn to drugs, most commonly glue sniffing. There are frequent stories of children being lured by promises of chocolate and having an eye or a kidney stolen to be sold on the black market.
Guiding Fischer is a former platform child--Vijay Bahadhur (nickname "Lucky"). With Lucky's help she documents the lives of platform children living in a society of their own. Lucky himself became a platform child at six or seven and had survived five years on the platforms, frequently supporting himself by picking pockets. Now he has aspirations of becoming a filmmaker.
There are shelters for the platform children and where they can be fed, but many prefer the life on the train platforms. It is harder for the light-skinned children and the younger children since they are more likely to be sexually abused, raped, or harassed. Some are forced to take drugs to control them in virtual slavery. Most are beaten by the police.
There are some organizations (mostly non-governmental) helping the children to avoid the platform culture and to give them refuge. In the film we see several projects to help the platform children. We see the late Inderjit Khurana who ran teaching programs that go to the students to educate them and give them hope.
Toward the end Fischer lightens the tone. Her style becomes more optimistic interviewing platform children who have escaped that life and are now successful. And we go with her as she takes Lucky back to Nepal to see the village of his birth.
The style of the film is fairly straightforward. With Lucky as her translator and emissary Fischer, only occasionally visible on camera, talks to the platform children and gets their stories. Probably Fischer spends a little too much time showing happy children in the provided shelters. Once the point has been made that the children are better off in shelters, happy children look much the same no matter what their background is. Street scenes from India do have appeal for the viewer.
Fischer has to walk a fine line here. She declares her respect for India in the closing credits, but it seems clear the Indian government should be helping these children more than they are.
I rate LUCKY EXPRESS a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. On August 27, 2013 LUCKY EXPRESS was released to DVD and digital platforms.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2316851/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/lucky_express_2012/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2013 Mark R. Leeper