Director Pulkit’s Hindi-language Netflix film, ‘Bhakshak,’ presents a crime-driven narrative that explores the socially sensitive topic of child abuse and human trafficking within the context of society’s self-serving ignorance. Helmed by Bhumi Pednekar’s character, Vaishali Singh, the film follows the small independent news reporter and her cameraman, Bhaskar Sinha. Despite their short reach, the news reporting duo undertake the murky but critical responsibility to deliver Bansi Sahu to his fate once they learn about the gross sexual, physical, and psychological abuse running rampant at the latter’s Munawwarpur Balika Seva Grih, a Children Welfare Home.
The film strives to bring attention to an immensely concerning aspect of reality by encouraging people to open their eyes to the commonplace abuse that thrives within negligent societies. Thus, given the film’s socially-driven narrative, viewers must speculate about the story’s central antagonist, Bansi Sahu, his nightmarish Welfare home, and their basis in reality.
Brajesh Thakur: The Inspiration Behind Bansi Sahu
The parallels between the film and the real-life Muzaffarpur Shelter Home Case are very stark. As such, Brajesh Thakur, the man who was the prime accused in the latter real-life case, is possibly the source of inspiration for Bansi Sahu’s character.
Since several true story cases inspire the film, Bansi Sahu’s character isn’t an exact biographical cinematic counterpart for Brajesh Thakur. Nevertheless, the former comes pretty close to it. Although Thakur’s story never involved a persistent and courageous small-town journalist, several aspects of his criminal life remain comparable to Bansi Sahu’s storyline.
Thakur hailed from a well-respected family in Muzaffarpur, where his father, Radha Mohan, dabbled in several businesses, including Pratah Kamal, a Hindi daily newspaper. In 1987, the pair opened up an NGO that housed various shelters, from the dreadful home for girls— that the former would come to be known for— to an old age home. Eventually, Thakur also overtook the Pratah Kamal business, running an inflated circulation scam.
According to a report done on the man by The Indian Express, this business helped Thakur get in the same rooms with powerful politicians and other influential personalities. Furthermore, Thakur even secured a position as Bihar People’s Party’s MLA. Thus, he kept the abusive wheels of his Shelter Home running until a Tata Institute of Social Sciences 2018 audit revealed the ugly truth about the sexual abuse happening in the “Balika Grih.”
With an FIR documented on May 31, 2018, Thakur and his conspirators saw their arrests a few days later on June 4. Among the arrested were individuals from the district Child Welfare Committee, such as its chairman, Dilip Verma. In the end, 19 people received convictions in connection to the Muzaffarpur shelter home case for criminal conspiracy to commit rape and sexual assault. Under POCSO Act, Thakur saw convictions for aggravated sexual assault and gang rape. In the end, a Delhi court sentenced Thakur to life imprisonment for his crimes in 2020.
Consequently, the similarities between Thakur and ‘Bhakshak’s’ Bansi Sahu lay bare. Even though the film never explicitly states this parallel, several small details, such as the character’s name— a possible nod to Thakur’s Pratah Kamal’s office location in Sahu Road— plant seeds of recognition. As a result of the same, the Munawwarpur Balika Seva Grih presents an on-screen counterpart for Thakur’s establishment.
A lot of the abuse depicted in the film’s brutal Shelter Home holds true to the witness reports that survivors from Thakur’s establishment have confirmed. Almost all of the girls in the real-life Balika Grih were victims of rape and sexual assault, often committed by Thakur or his associates, with several other cruel stories becoming their realities.
However, the story of the characters in the film’s Balika Seva Grih aren’t confined to Thakur and his crimes. Unfortunately, such stories unfold in real life across countries, irrespective of social circles. Ultimately, through Bansi Sahu’s character and his vile crimes, ‘Bhakshak’ brings vital social conversations to the forefront.
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