Some people dream of a life under the big top... adventure, applause, exotic animals and fantastic feats. But for the hundreds of children working in India's circuses, life is no fairy tale.
Most of the children have been sold or tricked into being veritable slaves in the circus. For little or no pay, they work nearly 20 hours a day, seven days a week. The children learn dangerous tricks, threatened with violence if they don't keep smiling through training and performances. Beatings are ubiquitous and sexual abuse is common.
Children from Nepal are particularly valuable - and vulnerable - to traffickers.
Running from poverty, into an uncertain future
At the age of four, he was running full marathons, cheered on by ever-growing crowds. Before he was six years old, Budhia Singh had completed a run of more than 75 kilometers. In his native Orissa, he was more than a prodigy; Budhia was almost revered as a local deity. But around him was a complicated and sinister backstory.
Budhia was sold by his mother and later adopted by Biranchi Das, a man determined to train him for the Olympics. British filmmaker Gemma Atwal heard about the strange story of Budhia and Biranchi, and decided to make a film about them. She thought it would be a film about a boy running from poverty, into an Olympic future. But it turned into a much darker tale of greed, confused love, and twisted political ambitions. Dheera Sujan talked to Gemma Atwal about her film, Marathon Boy.
Learn more about it on this week's South Asia Wired. Just click the audio stream below to listen.