It was recess time and four-year-old Praboo Ariva was playing with a friend when he noticed a man standing outside the walls of his kindergarten, peering through the window.
“Boy, can you follow uncle to the car to help me take some things?” Praboo recalls the man’s words to him. Remembering the advice of his mother warning him to be wary of strangers, Praboo responded: “Hold on uncle, let me call my teacher.”
When he came back, the man was gone.
Years later, reading about news reports on cases after cases of kidnapping reminded Praboo of the incident and inspired him to shed light on the issue through film.
Kid, directed by the now 18-year-old budding filmmaker, documents a series of kidnappings beginning with 17-year-old Jarrel who is abducted on his way home on the last day of secondary school.
As the film progresses, viewers learn more about other kidnapping victims, further peeling open issues such as cyberstalking and human trafficking. Kid also turns the camera on the kidnappers themselves, telling the story from their point of view and understanding their motivations.
“(This movie is) something different. Almost every month, there’s a love story or an action movie coming out. (Even if) there’s a movie about kidnapping, it’s always more focused on the commercial side, rather than the reality,” says the teenager who first wrote Kid’s storyline at 13.
The young director says his passion for moving pictures sparked when he first saw the Star Wars film franchise as a boy.
“I watched Episode I to VI within the span of a weekend and I started loving CGI. I would re-enact scenes from the show and recorded them with my dad’s camera phone,” he shares.
His filmmaking skills were gradually honed when he became the go-to videographer in his school besides making short films and submitting them to competitions.
Still, it seemed like a pipe dream getting his work shown in the cinemas.
Kid came to be after Praboo struck up a friendship with one of the film’s producers Fenomena Seni Produksi’s S.T. Bala in 2013. “He called me one day and asked if I was interested to sign with a talent agency as an actor. I declined the offer and told him I wanted to do directing instead,” recalls Praboo. He later shared with Bala the idea for Kid and eventually came onboard with the project.
The film’s RM200,000 price tag was jointly funded by Fenomena Seni Produksi, his parents and a small sum by Praboo himself through his work as a photographer, videographer and designer over the years.
The Malacca native shot the film at his home state in the middle of last year, recruiting actors and cast members comprising former classmates and fellow “struggling artistes” he had met on social media.
Although Kid is categorised as a Tamil film, Praboo believes his debut film is for all Malaysians.
“It’s categorised as a Tamil film due to the fact that there is more dialogue in Tamil but I wanted to balance it out because I wanted to reach the entire Malaysian audience.
“The film starts off in English; there is also dialogue in Malay, and then you have the kidnappers who speak in Tamil. And there’s even a scene where one of them speaks in Mandarin,” asserts Praboo, adding that an original Mandarin song is played as the film’s credits roll.
Looking ahead, Praboo will be pursuing his major in film studies this August at Full Sail University in Florida in the United States.
The director hopes to make more films that will reflect the realities of life, be it stories on relationships or social issues.
Asked if he ever felt he wasn’t taken seriously because of his age, Praboo responds: “My mum and I saw a movie at home and it was directed by a 12-year-old kid and I go, ‘Hold on, a 12-year-old can do a movie and I’m not doing anything about it? Wake up Praboo, wake up, do something.’ ”
The teenager also credits his parents for creating a fertile ground for his dreams. “I don’t consider myself younger among other people. There are even younger people making movies.”
Kid opens in selected cinemas nationwide today.