God Children

India's deified children born with birth defects

God Children In rural villages of India, children born with a specific birth defect may be transformed overnight into a Hindu God, becoming an incarnation and a beacon of hope to the people around them. One boy never wished to be seen as a Hindu God, while the other only knows how to live as a symbol of hope to his village. Both were never given the choice.

“When I was young, I had a tail, so people made me Hanuman… Now that I’m older I know that I’m not Hanuman. My name is Arshad.” Arshad and Pranshu are two boys from Punjab, India born with genetic and physical problems: Arshad bore a tail, while Pranshu has craniosynostosis, causing his enlarged skull and narrow eyes.

Instead of being ostracised from society because of their appearance, these boys became the projections of certain Hindu Gods. Arshad is known to those in his village as Hanuman, the Hindu God of strength, and Pranshu is deemed to be Ganesh, the Hindu God of fortune and success. As children, such beliefs went unquestioned; as they grow older, this version of reality has become more problematic.

“When I found out that they made me into a God, I was upset. I was unaware of being seen as Hanuman when I was young.” Now 17 years old, Arshad is more and more frustrated by his condition, his only desire that he could walk. Despite the wishes of his grandfather, he will no longer bless those who come to him. “I said find a Hanuman temple in their village and get blessed there… There are so many temples. I’m not God. I’m Arshad.”

“Slowly more people came [to be blessed] and everyone’s wishes started coming true. People who were unhappy with their lives started coming to get blessed”, explains Pranshu’s father Kamlesh Kumar. Before he was born, the family faced terrible poverty, but Pranshu’s Godly status has brought prosperity to their home. At 12 years of age, he is still keen to please his parents, but, like Arshad, he too expresses the wish for a normal childhood: “I’m not sure why people come to me. I’m just a kid. I want to be a child. I don’t want to be Ganesh.”

Had Arshad and Pranshu been operated on from a young age, both children could have been saved. With Arshad, it is too late for surgery, and he will never walk freely. Pranshu too could have lead a normal life, and his condition could have been prevented. For Doctor Pankaj Trivedi, the fact that the boys’ conditions were ignored “is totally…I think, ignorance and a lack of awareness”.

Reviews and More

There is an ease to Reshel’s storytelling, and only a conversation with her reveals the many decisions that go into lighting or shooting every scene.” – Broadcast PRO Middle East

For more information on the Making Of the Film, see here.

LaurelBroadcast PRO Middle East - Best Documentary

The Producers

Reshel Shah - Director

Reshel is an independent documentary film producer and director based in the UAE. In 2014, she directed her first feature documentary Black Sheep, which looks into the lives of the Transgender women of India. The film went on to be part of numerous film festivals and won multiple international award and has been distributed internationally as well as being part of educational curriculums in the US and Asia. She has also directed and produced short documentaries, Victor and The Undertaker, and has now completed her latest film God Children.

Kish Pagarani - Producer

Kish Pagarani has had a great interest in both fiction and non-fiction films for many years. After moving to Dubai, he decided to spend more time in developing productions from the UAE and working with talent based in Dubai. Kish believes finding unique stories and being able to engage that through the power of film to an audience is one of the most powerful ways to connect to one another, while keeping it entertaining. Apart from being an investor for several films he is the owner of 'Yoga Life' magazine, the Middle East’s only mind, body and spirit magazine.

Making The Film

The making of God Children in total took around one year from development to execution. The idea behind the film was to show both the children’s views as well as how it has affected the lives of their families. Before filming began Reshel made three trips to India to spend time with the boys and their families so they would all be comfortable with sharing their views and opinions on camera. The main team of the film are based in the UAE while some were from India itself. What started off as an idea ended up taking six months of pre-production, 19 days of shoot and countless days of editing!

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