Haami is a call to return childhood to children

Hilda Peacock, the director of Gems Akademia International School, pens her thoughts on the film Haami, which deals with issues of child safety in school...

Haami takes an extremely sensitive look at all the issues faced by schools, principals, the staff and students and yet shows the anxiety of parents and guardians, and the curiosity of the press and public at large. 

Coming in the wake of the recent events of child abuse, this film is an eye-opener and a reminder that all accused are not necessarily guilty.

The first half of the film is deceptively lighthearted and deals with a young child, Bodhishatwo, or Bhutu (played by Broto Banerjee) in a primary class,  and his parents, Laltu and Mitali Biswas (Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay and Gargee Roychowdhury). They are among that group of people who are disdainfully called nouveau riche. Laltu Biswas, brilliantly enacted by Shiboprosad, owns a furniture shop and is a loveable, timid, henpecked husband. 

In the course of the film, a friendship develops between two children, Bhutu and Tanuruchi (played by Tiyasha Pal). Bhutu gives Tanuruchi a peck on the cheek. All hell breaks loose! 

There are enough subplots in the film to ensure a laugh riot. Two mothers fight outside school, the local councillor who is a bully outside the house is petrified of his wife’s tantrums. We are given to see the equation between Srinjoy Sen (Sujan Mukherjee) and his wife Rina (Churni Ganguly). They are educated, qualified and full of themselves. 

The film shows the everyday issues that make up a day at school. Children in the playground, the buses arriving, crowds at the gate, tiffin time, “helicopter parents”, and the other extreme — parents who know nothing about their children. We also see parents who live their own dreams through the lives of their children. 

Towering above all these stands the character of the principal. In a display of understated acting, controlled in every movement, is Tanusree Shankar holding the school together. With the counsellor (Aparajita Adhya), they take on the ups and downs that make up a school day. Anyone connected with the school will identify with these problems. The kind of pressures that schools face nowadays — confiscation of cell phones, request for change of section, parent-teacher conflicts, school gossip — are all depicted with gentle humour and a large dose of common sense. 

The school and the principal seem to take everything in their stride. Until one day tragedy strikes! The elderly bus conductor Chachaji (Masood Akhtar) is accused of molesting a little girl. In true form, the parents, the public and the press all go ballistic. The clamour, the threats, the loud noise drown out the quieter, saner voices of moderation and respect. 

If the first half made you laugh, the second half will move you to tears. Everyone of us who have lived through these moments in our professional lives will testify to the darkness and the isolation of a school so unfairly and negatively portrayed. Once again it is the principal who takes things in hand. 

This story has a happy ending and one comes out of the hall feeling good. This film is a call for the return of trust between parents and teachers and schools and children and all of us who want to see the return of childhood to children. 



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