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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 22  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 114-116

Film Title: Silent Screams

1 Media Consultant Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2 Amateur Theatre Artist and Public Relations Executive, New Delhi, India
3 Senior Consultant in Plastic Surgery, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication15-Dec-2014

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-653X.147030

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How to cite this article:
Mahajan-Sutha J, Singh N, Singh K. Film Title: Silent Screams. Indian J Burns 2014;22:114-6

How to cite this URL:
Mahajan-Sutha J, Singh N, Singh K. Film Title: Silent Screams. Indian J Burns [serial online] 2014 [cited 2023 Jun 9];22:114-6. Available from: https://www.ijburns.com/text.asp?2014/22/1/114/147030

Genre: Documentary

Director: Mudassar Mashalkar

Professional documentary film making is a multimillion dollar industry. Content created for big networks likes National Geographic Channel, or films that compete for Oscars often have budgets that can easily run up to half a million dollars or more for a 1 h program. Television programmers have to work consistently on strategies to compete with the ever more popular dramas and reality series.

I come from this world. I have been in the international documentary film industry for the last 18 years. I make films, and I am also constantly watching new films that have won awards or are being talked about within the industry. However, I would like to admit something. Rarely do documentaries touch my heart. I am often impressed with technique or camera work and what the director manages to get out of the characters, but rarely do films move me emotionally.

I had a chance to watch Silent Screams, a documentary film on burn survivors in India. Made in association with Burn Advocates Network (BAN) (USA) and the Department of Plastic Surgery KEM Hospital, (Mumbai), the film chronicles the life of a child burn survivor, Yogesh. Yogesh was burnt at the age of 9 months, and the film follows his search for recovery. It was a simply made film, yet a film that manages to strike a chord.

Yogesh is one among thousands of children in India who are burnt every year. Burns and fire-related injuries are a problem largely associated with Asian and African countries. The inadequate number of burn centers that can provide timely burn care compounds the problem. And then there is the issue of psychological care. Burn survivors are scarred not only physically, but the constant stares and pity that they are treated with are a constant reminder of their agony.

The documentary tries to address the issues associated with burn care in India, by focusing on Yogesh and the care that he receives by the plastic surgery department in KEM Hospital in Mumbai. The good doctors are shown trying to help out different kinds of patients who come from all corners of the country, with the hope for some kind of remedy for their burnt children. The film also follows Yogesh, and other burn survivors attend Camp Karma, the first of its kind rehabilitation camp for burn survivors held in India in 2013. In the camp, the kids are introduced to various fun activities that help them become more confident, open individuals and ready to face the world with their head held high.

The basic story line is what works for the film. It was amazing to see the transformation of Yogesh who used always to cover his head with a scarf to hide his scars, openly laugh wearing only a hat as he experiences flying fox in the camp. It was inspiring to see the dedication of the plastic surgeons who work with burn survivors from around the country. The hope with which parents of burn survivors enter KEM Hospital, and then a sense of relief and joy as their children slowly get better was tenderly portrayed.

This documentary reminded me of Saving Face, an Oscar-winning documentary made in Pakistan about acid attack survivors. It was a film that was shot over a period of 2 years and showed how plastic surgery makes a difference in the lives of the survivors. It also simultaneously shows events unfolding in the personal lives of the women who had their faces disFigured due to the acid attacks. The film managed to raise a lot of awareness about acid attack survivors and their plights in Pakistan.

Silent screams cannot be compared in its scale of production. It is a small film, shot on a minimal budget, in less than a week. It is not made in the most professional manner, but it is still a film with a heart and soul. And because of this very fact, it is worth a watch.

Reviewer: Jaya Mahajan-Sutha

Media Consultant Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Resulting from a joint effort by the Department of Plastic Surgery, KEM Hospital, Mumbai (India) and the BAN Ltd., (USA) Silent Screams is the narrative of a heart wrenching yet heart-warming film on the story of pediatric burn survivors in India.

When I came across the title, I was expecting a documentary or dramatic recount of one among the several social ills that have come into the purview of public debate around social oppression and injustice in the country. I discovered that there was in fact, a namesake production on the issue of rape which had been released before. Although the theme surprised me as I commenced watching the film, I also learned that the undercurrents in the story were indeed intertwined with the prejudices that accompany many a mind-set in this culture.

The film focuses on the trauma caused by burn related injuries - but not only in a physical sense. It takes the audience through a day in the life of Yogesh, a 15-year-old boy who is still battling the emotional and physical scars caused by a burn injury in an accident when he was 9 months old. We come face to face with Yogesh, and hear from the various influences in his life - friends, family, and mentors - about the troubles he faces every day. He himself only speaks of the physical damage he sustained, while speaking about how his treatment in the past year, by the Department, Plastic Surgery at KEM Hospital Mumbai, has allowed him to regain basic function in his previously immobile hand. His sister speaks of the decision to invest time, effort and finances in the hope of complete recovery for her brother. His father, she says, refuses to associate with him at all.

The doctors believe that the family waited far too long before deciding to consult a plastic surgeon. Yogesh has lived with his deformities for 14 years of his life. This is the state of burns treatment across the majority of Indian burns survivors, with little access to good doctors, even lesser knowledge of the scope of treatment and with limited means to spare.

After taking us through the treatment Yogesh has undergone so far, and the plan to rebuild an ear for him, the movie takes us through the treatment of one such other patient, a 10-year-old boy named Zaid. It showcases the use of a thigh tissue used to cover an open area on the skull, while highlighting that the boy's own aspirations are driven by cosmetic needs now, more than reconstructive ones. The doctors speak of their constant encouragement to both boys to be comfortable with their scars, but are met with apprehensions from both, as one dons a cap and the other, a scarf in order to avoid judgment, ridicule or even curiosity from strangers and peers.

In a social culture where physical appearances hold immense importance, children and young adults often face the greatest challenge in the form of gaining peer acceptance. It is this pressure which stigmatizes the minds of recovering pediatric burn survivors. This throws light on the pressing need for psychological rehabilitation and motivation for such young survivors, in a bid to avoid their injuries from enveloping their identities entirely. Yogesh goes to school with a scarf around his face, previously having been so conscious that it would induce social reclusion, and even dissatisfying academic performance.

The movie emphasizes on the growing recognition for emotional guidance, support and encouragement for such survivors - regardless of their social, religious or economic backgrounds.

At this point, the audience is introduced to the plans of an advocacy group called BAN Ltd., (USA) and their initiative to hold the first Pediatric Burn Survivor Camp along with the Department of Plastic Surgery, KEM Hospital. The concept of a fun filled, 3 days camp may come across as being odd at first, but being in theatre I do understand how free, open and carefree communication and expression can drive a person to explore and unlock several aspects of their personality. For a burn survivor, such insight into themselves can be a wondrous revelation. Existing among several social pressures and stigmas, children find themselves vulnerable and often let their injuries or deformities define their personalities. Camp Karma is focused on engaging these children in interesting activities, allowing them to focus on creativity, expression and just enjoyment on the whole.

On seeing the final day performances and the enthusiasm exuded by these children, one is filled with hope that this need for psychological rehabilitation is further recognized, so the stigma attached with physical injury and scarring can be done away with entirely - be it for adults or for children.

While the narrative in the documentary becomes vague at points, the theme holds strong from beginning to end, taking the viewer as close as possible to the actual life of a burn survivor, their hurdles as well as the effect this has on their environment and vice versa. The film beautifully puts across how both familial and medical aid put together with emotional support can ensure healthier and happier lives for those scarred by unfortunate accidents, especially the young ones with fragile hearts.

The director has attempted to craft a story out of the theme; however the visuals and inputs from family and peers themselves are robust enough to put together a hard hitting yet touching film about a very traumatic cause of what often become lifelong scars.

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Nandita Singh

Amateur Theatre Artist and Public Relations Executive, New Delhi, India

E-mail: [email protected]

My initial reaction on being asked to review Silent Screams was, whether I would be able to give an impartial review of a film made on burns. But on second thought, I realized that this was a subject very dear to my heart, and therefore I could not let go of such a wonderful opportunity. The film brings out very clearly the plight of burn survivors, that too of children, as they grow from infancy to childhood, on to adolescence, the most tumultuous years of their lives. How they are looked upon as different by other children, even themselves, as they find that they are the odd ones out.

Through a day in the life of Yogesh, the director brings out the conscious mind of the 15-year-old, how he wears a scarf to hide his abnormal side (of his face) from his friends and fellow students. That, despite this handicap he firmly manages to put his studies on track. Furthermore, it shows the family support lacking from his father, who is an alcoholic, is more than made up by his sister, mother and uncles.

The film is a very motivating one-for doctors involved in burn care to focus on the needs of pediatric burn survivors post healing, as most of us think that burn treatment is over with healing. But, like Dr. Raja Sabapathy once said "The end point of treatment is not healing, but rehabilitation of the patient" and I remember it so vividly. For these children, this movie drives home the point that.

Social rehabilitation is the end point of treatment. For the society the message, to be more sensitive to these children's needs and need for affirmative action. Dr. Puri and her team from KEM Hospital comes across as showing a rare sensitivity to the needs of Yogesh, and how he is comfortable verbalizing his problems objectively with the team.

The other child Zaid, who had electrical burns is shown successfully treated of a life threatening complication, but how the child is still conscious of his thick flap, and still tries to hide his head with a scarf to avoid looks, more because of his being conscious about his appearance, less for fear of being ostracized.

The viewer is also introduced to Camp Karma for these children organized by KEM along with (BAN from the US), which is a wonderful thing for these survivors as they open up, discover skills they never had and behave like normal children. It reiterates what group therapy can achieve. Off go the scarf and the caps, giving them the day of their life.

The narrative falters at places, but the content is so strong, that it rides on its own, and keeps one riveted as you come to the end of the film. I felt sad that Camp Karma had come to an end, wishing, nay hoping, that it continued forever.

The movie also, brings out the fact that burn care in India has a long way to go, … in terms of prevention, accessibility to timely care, standards of care, and most importantly efforts to integrate them into society without they feeling left out.

Reviewer: Dr. Kuldeep Singh

Senior Consultant in Plastic Surgery, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, India

E-mail: [email protected]


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