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Field producer of Smile Pinki, Nandini Rajwade
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'In India, a child born with a cleft lip is better off dead'

Who knew a documentary about a village girl from Uttar Pradesh, suffering from a deformity, could win an Oscar?

But that is what happened when the 39-minute long film, Smile Pinki bagged the Academy Award in the Best Documentary (Short) category.

The film celebrates the work of plastic surgeon Dr Subodh Kumar Singh, who provided free surgery to fix the cleft lip of poor children.

The short film, made by the New York-based documentary director Megan Mylan, centres around Pinki Kumari, whose life is transformed by the simple surgery. In fact, many people in India are unaware of the birth defect which affects an estimated 35,000 children every year.

Smile Pinki field producer Nandini Rajwade, whom Mylan thanked in her Oscar speech, confesses she was clueless about the defect when Mylan got in touch with her.

"When Megan told me about her documentary on children affected by a cleft lip, I didn't know what it was. I learnt a lot while doing the film. I read about it online and then recalled seeing some children with a cleft lip in the past," says Nandini.

Before she moved to the US after getting married, Nandini worked with Nikhil and Niret Alva's Miditech television company for seven years. She made feature-based documentaries on the environment and social issues for the Living on the Edge and Great Escape shows.

Here's what else she told Syed Firdaus Ashraf about the film, and the wonderful Oscar win.

What went through your mind when Smile Pinki won an Oscar?

Oh my god! Before the envelope was opened, I was on pins and needles. We didn't know whether we would win or not, but we were hopeful. And when they announced Smile Pinki as the winner, it was such an unbelievable moment! They announced it so quickly, and as soon as they did, the phones started ringing. We wanted to hear what Megan had to say, but couldn't because the phones were ringing non-stop.

It was the most exciting moment of my life.

Nandini Rajwade, shot by Hitesh Harisinghani.

Also Watch: Smile Pinki wins an Oscar for Best Documentary


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