A HOT DOCS SELECT
A dairy seller and his wife pray to the elephant-headed god Ganesh for a son. Their prayers are answered, but the boy takes on a trait of his namesake: a large growth erupts from between his eyes. As the boy ages, the growth threatens his health. The parents spend money, that they are forced to borrow, on doctors that are not able to help their son.
Then, an act of goodwill – the parents pick up a stranded motorist at the side of the road – proves fateful. The man observes Ganesh and believes something more can be done for the boy. He contacts his reporter brother at ETV. The reporter contacts the parents; however, the parents are reluctant to draw attention to their son who has been mocked. Eventually, they agree to share their story publicly.
A media sea change has swept through India in the past few years. There are now over a whopping 300 channels and they are hungry for sympathetic stories, like that of Ganesh, since they are popular with viewers.
The Chief Minister of the State sees the story and unites with a local private hospital to announce that they will fund the expensive surgery necessary to remove Ganesh’s growth. Then, another even more remarkable offer comes about and this is when the story gets really interesting.
The station that ran the story is owned by media mogul Ramoji, of Ramoji Film Studios. In a separate plot line, Canadian plastic surgeon, Dr Sanjeev Kaila of Sarnia, Ontario, sets out to India to seek philanthropic projects. He wants to use his skills and reconnect with his roots having been born in India. Dr Kaila learns of Ramoji and finagles a meeting with him – out of sheer interest in this very successful man. Through this strange twist of fate, Ramoji asks Dr Kaila if he “does noses” and tells him the story of Ganesh. It’s not the nose job he is used to, but it is exactly the challenge the doctor was looking for. Dr Kaila begins to consult specialists from all over North America including a cranio facial surgeon from the Mayo clinic. He recruits his surgical team and they all travel to India.
During all of this, Ganesh’ father Krishna endures threats from money-lenders (whom we actually meet) that cause him so much such stress that he attempts suicide. His wife Jayamma convinces him to not give up on his family. Though she is uneducated, she is resolute. The situation with her family and her husband’s near loss of faith, serves to renew hers. She gets training and a job to help with finances. “Only if we make an effort can we hope for God’s grace.”
This is not a run-of-the-mill inspirational fix-a-poverty-stricken-child-with-an-ailment story. It is the confluence of a remarkable set of events and recounts the various needs and desires of the characters involved. Everyone’s common goal is a healthy Ganesh – a smiling bright boy who doesn’t even recognize the drama that plays out all around him.
For more information about Ganesh: Boy Wonder, directed by Srinivas Krishna, or to screen it at Hot Docs, please click here.