The Revolutionary Optimists In Kolkata

To celebrate World Health Day, the American Center Kolkata, in collaboration with Prayasam, screened the India premiere of The Revolutionary Optimists.  Shot over a period of three and a half years, the internationally acclaimed documentary film, traces the inspiring journeys of four disadvantaged children from Kolkata’s Rishi Aurobindo Colony.  These young crusaders battled poverty to transform their communities and inspired the world.  The documentary also highlights the work of the non-profit organization Prayasam’s founding member, Amlan Ganguly, and his model “Child Area Health Minders” which empowers the children to become agents of change working on challenges that plague their neighborhoods like preventive health, basic hygiene, and environmental cleanliness.

“It’s the power of the concept!  Engaging children in the developmental process is vital to achieve true success.  It’s not about an individual child, but children as a whole who should be involved in this process,” believes Piyali Mazumdar, Director of Prayasam.

Two of the film’s protagonists Sikha Patra and Salim Sheikh, were present to share their stories at the American Center screening.  Speaking to the press Salim said, “The entire Prayasam family should be called The Revolutionary Optimists.  Because we all believe that you must not become a product of your environment but make the environment your product.  And we are trying to do that.”

The media interaction was moderated by Rachel Sunden, Deputy Director of the American Center Kolkata who remarked, “It is true honor to meet Sikha and Salim and hear the story of the work they and their friends have done to change their world.  In a time when so many people focus on what can’t be done, it is wonderful to meet these amazing changemakers who go ahead and tackle issues head on, and show that people of all levels, youth included, have the power to institute change in their society.”

Nicole Newnham and Maren Granger-Monsen, award winning filmmakers based at Stanford University, began working on this film five years ago to propel change in communities around the world.  The film, which premiered in New York, has made a significant stir and has been screened by UNICEF, USAID, Stanford University, and even at the inaugural ceremony of The Global Vaccine Summit, hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Shorts from the film were screened at TEDxChange events in New York and Berlin, where Sikha Patra and Salim Sheikh, participated as speakers on “Positive Disruption”.