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 What inspired you to make this series?
In India, under privileged children continue to be the most vulnerable section of
society and their growth and development remains a major concern. There is an
immense need to sensitize people from all walks of life towards improving the lives
of those children who have lost their childhood due to perpetual poverty. For
example,
•
Almost 42 million children aged between 6 and 14 do not go to school.
•
There are close to 13 million children in India who are now engaged in child
labour while unofficial estimates put this figure at over 40 million.
•
Estimates by international agencies put the number of street children in
India at 18 million, which is the largest in the world.
•
According to save the children report of 2009 nearly two million children
under five die every year in India – one every 15 seconds – the highest
number anywhere in the world.
Thus, the poor in India – particularly children –have nobody to represent
them. Even though India's children account for more than one-third of its
population, their interests have never been given priority. The series ‘Choone Do
Aasman’ was an inspiration by looking into the plight of such children and
sensitizing the middle class and the rich (which together comprises more than half
of the population) towards the overall development process.
 How did you develop the ideas?
We noticed that children tend to migrate along with their parents and sometimes
alone to cities in search of jobs. Also, being a Development Organisation and
working in 22 States of India on various developmental issues helped us to identify
all those locations (cities) where children are deprived of basic necessities,
education etc. Through the series ‘Choone Do Aasman’ we wanted to showcase real
children who are struggling everyday in search of their lost childhood. As a
development organisation we felt the need to sensitize the masses about the Dreams
& Aspirations of such children. The series ‘Choone Do Aasman’ was an effort to seek
attention of civil society groups, policy makers, corporate and other opinion makers
towards ensuring rights of children irrespective of their background, class and caste.
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 How did you find the Children whose stories you
tell?
The team behind the series did extensive research with the support of various
partners of Smile Foundation towards finalising the characters in the series. The
experience of working with these children was extremely nice and thrilling. Despite
so many problems in their lives, these children had an excitement towards achieving
their dreams and aspirations. We found that in the journey of reaching to their
dreams the children have forgotten the hardships of life and are trying to live in
their own world of imaginations.
 What were your impressions when filming and
producing the series?
Filming and producing the series has been a great learning experience which has
boosted the team’s confidence in using mass media tools for development. Right
from the beginning all those who were involved in the project had a very clear
understanding on the subject. People behind the creation of the series knew that to
sensitize masses about the plight of underprivileged children in India, there cannot
be a better medium than ‘Choone Do Aasman’. The journey of ‘Choone Do Aasman’
has been an innovation in the field of development and the team is very positive to
do similar actions in future. No doubt, the entire process has been challenging and
not easy but the response of people, media, national and international agencies have
been extremely encouraging. It gave immense confidence to the entire unit to work
harder and persevere even if the size of the problem is big. A real passion could be
easily noticed amongst people involved in the production as they travelled across
the country, looking into the lives of disadvantaged children closely and identifying
the real problems which needed to be showcased to the world. In fact the
production has been a huge success and that is why another series of ‘Choone Do
Aasman’ was created in 2010 which was aired in the month of August.
 What has been the reaction from audiences after
watching it?
We received an overwhelming response from the audience from various parts of the
country. People appreciated our work by writing to us and also by expressing their
interest to work for the upliftment of underprivileged children. Also, the number
hits and unique visitors on Smile Foundation’s website have increased three folds.
It’s been noticed that in various individuals and public gatherings people have
identified Smile Foundation with their memories of ‘Choone Do Aasman’.
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It is worth mentioning that academicians, researchers and corporations have also
acknowledged the idea of sensitizing masses through medium like ‘Choone Do
Aasman’.
 What are your plans in the future to promote the
children's rights?
Apart from our core programmes on Education, Health and Livelihood we are
working actively to promote child rights through mass media such as Print Media,
Electronic Media, E- Communication, Public Service Advertisements, Documentaries
and Films. We are aggressively using mass media to sensitize masses towards the
rights of children. We have also created a feature film called ‘I am Kalam’ on the
theme ‘every child should go to school’ which has been nominated in 15 film
festivals across the globe and also won awards in Lucas Children’s Film Festival in
2010. India is huge in terms of geographical and demographic reach and using mass
media tools remains the only option to reach every household in the country. Thus
Media Advocacy encompasses involvement of media as a major player in spreading
awareness and publicizing the cause of underprivileged to a wide audience. Apart
from media advocacy involving students, corporations, school children etc in
various campaigns, child centric projects and awareness generation activities on
child rights are ongoing affairs in Smile Foundation.
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