Babu review: The harrowing effects of foreign employment on a child

Photo: Screengrab from Babu
Photo: Screengrab from Babu

Many families in rural Nepal live ordinary lives with ordinary dreams. Most of them want a roof over their heads and two meals a day they can eat with their family. Besides this, they do not expect lofty things from life.

Although they have ordinary dreams, they go through a lot of struggle to make those dreams come true. Most have to leave their villages and live away from their families to fulfil these dreams. Many even leave Nepal altogether for better earning opportunities and a better life for themselves and their families.

As a growing number of young individuals depart the country, rural villages are experiencing a significant exodus, leaving only the elderly behind. In the initial five months of the current fiscal year, almost 300,000 people have migrated for foreign employment. People leaving Nepal on the eve of or during the festive season shows how desperate people are in today’s time.

The short movie Babu, directed by Eelum Mani Dixit, has tried to shed light on this issue.

Desperation to do something big

photo: Screengrab from Babu
photo: Screengrab from Babu

The movie begins with Babu, played by Kaustubh Basnet splashing water on his grandfather, played by Ramesh KC. Babu does not stop there as he places an earthworm in his diary, stimulating a startled reaction from the grandfather. Babu is relentless as he then draws a moustache with a pen on his grandfather’s face.  Later, when all the family gets together for dinner, Babu’s grandfather complains about his mischievous behaviour to the parents.

Babu’s father, played by Divya Dev, then tells the family about his intention to leave Nepal for foreign employment. Not many agree and ask him to reconsider his decision.

The movie takes a turn when an earthquake destroys their home killing Babu’s mother played by Asmita Basnet. The scene reminded me of the 2015 earthquake which killed 9,000 people. The struggle that the family has to go through post-earthquake can be relatable to hundreds of households affected by it in Nepal in 2015.     

After losing his mother, Babu’s behaviour changes drastically. The filmmaker has presented the child’s trauma realistically.

Babu’s stress intensifies as his father leaves to ease the family’s financial burden, evident in the child artist Kaustubh’s acting, expressions and tone. Kaustubh’s performance deserves appreciation.

With his father gone, the child is alone in the house with his grandfather. He feels he now has to be a responsible person and can no longer be the obnoxious child he once was. He even starts looking for jobs. Babu’s transformation from a mischievous child to someone seeking employment to support his family conveys a powerful message: maturity is shaped by circumstances, not just age.

Hardest goodbye

As the movie goes on, one day Babu’s father returns home. He was not there for leisure; his purpose was to bring his son back with him. Having accumulated sufficient resources, he desired to enrol his son in a better school. This scenario reflects a prevalent social phenomenon in contemporary Nepali society, where parents temporarily leave their children with grandparents until they are settled abroad. The movie captures a touching scene where the elderly of the village discuss their children residing overseas, portraying the loneliness felt by ageing parents when their offspring are absent, unable to care for them. This conversation will surely resonate with many elderly parents both in rural and urban Nepal.

As Babu leaves, his grandfather is in the home alone. The concluding scene of the movie, portraying the emotional farewell between Babu and his grandfather, possesses the ability to evoke tears in the audience. The grandfather’s emotional expressions, enhanced by the emotional background score, heighten the impact of this touching moment.

The film evokes a nostalgic feel reminiscent of movies from the 80s and early 90s, thanks to its colour tone. Tanmay Chowdhary’s straightforward camera work seamlessly complements all the scenes. The strategic use of shaky cam in certain instances adds a touch of realism and intensity to the narrative.

Overall, this 26-minute-long film Babu is worth watching. It unfolds as a heartwarming family movie, offering relatable moments with Babu and his family members throughout the narrative. 

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Prasun Sangroula is an Onlinekhabar correspondent, mainly covering arts, society and sports.

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