Fireflies In The Abyss,a documentary on the lives of illegal coal miners in an impoverish hill town of Jaintia Hills of North East India, moves you to tears, not because the protagonist is a impoverished minor grappling with the unspeakably tough life of a miner in a wretched coal town, but for its sheer grit and absence of sentimentality and melodrama in portraying young lives that are so much on the fringes they threaten to disappear over the precipice into the abyss that director Chandrasekhar Reddy so poetically describes in the film’s title .
The emotional outbursts are strictly out of bounds, Even when the little protagonist talks about his alchoholicfather and the debts that the family must bear, there are no tears of recrimination. Reddy isn’t here to play the blame game. He would rather spend the duration of his narration showing Suraj grappling with his destiny to emerge a true hero .
If only the narrative had displayed some frugality in flaunting the footage that runs on much longer than necessary often to capture the deprived lives in repetitive routine actions.With some tighter editing and less space for rumination, this feature-length docu would hold our interests with far more effortlessness.
Nonetheless the length never takes away from breadth of the basic tenet tenor and the tone of unassuming compassion. Director Chandrasekar Reddy’s brave and remarkable documentation of life in the pits(literally) is never bleak or self-pitying. Through his protagonist Suraj(a kind of solidified mountainside version of the melted down street boy in Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay) has little to hope for he nevertheless displays an attitude of positivity that invites optimism.
Rightfully the documentary designates the major part of the footage to Suraj and his family life. Though there are other lives that the director touches it is Suraj we follow from the easy breathing spaces of the unspoilt North Eastern countryside to the claustrophobic pits.When he descends into the ‘rat hole’ we get the most evocative metaphor of lives of the fringe people whom we frequently ignore because we have no solution to their poverty-stricken existence.
Fireflies In The Abyss tells us why we can’t turn away from young impressionable vulnerable and seemingly doomed lives such as that of Suraj, and why children from economically challenged backgrounds need to be pulled out of the pits and put into classrooms.
This is an important document of our times chronicling a reality that we like to sweep away from sight , unless aSalman Khan chooses to be human by posing with slum kids .