For someone who has raised many eyebrows with her bold roles, Nandita Das understands children's cinema rather well. And she's very particular about the content that her 15-month-old Vihaan is exposed to on television. Back after a successful children's film festival in Hyderabad, the actor and chairperson of Children's Film Society India (CFSI), talks to CS about kids' films:
Who: Nandita Das
What: Talking about children's cinema
Age does matter
Most of the Indian filmmakers today think and make films that are relevant to an age group of six to sixty. But all of them fail to understand a basic thing -- how can a film and an issue that is relevant to a 60-year-old appeal to a 6-year-old? Filmmakers have turned insensitive towards kids' cinema today. However, of late, the kids' films are making a comeback with projects like Tare Zameen Pe, Stanley Ka Dabba, I Am Kalam and Chillar Party. But I am not to sure whether this trend is just a passing phase or here to stay. We need to learn from countries like China on how to focus on children's overall development through their films and cartoons.
I grew up in Delhi where we had a screening of kids' films every weekend at Sapru house. It was a trend then. But with the multiplex culture taking centre stage, this inclination towards special screening of films for kids has diminished. I am a mother to a 15-month-old and today the kind of content around is a matter of concern to me. At home, we hardly watch TV. Even when we do, we make sure Vihaan isn't in front of it for a long time. But most of the content children are exposed to is because of their parents. I would love Vihaan to watch stuff that is fun, enriching and inspiring. But whether I like it or not, he will be exposed to things I wouldn't want him to. As a child, I hardly watched television. My parents were more into music and dance and book fair, drama going people. Hence, even I wasn't exposed to films and TV. In fact, most of my film watching happened in college. The only commercial film I remember seeing with my father is Haathi Mere Saathi.
The issue of children being exploited as child artists has been in the news for a while. After films like Salam Bombay or the recent controversy on Slumdog kids, one has to draw a line. Child artists today are an integral part of films. Every film and TV serial has a child artist in it. The bigger question is how do we ensure that they aren't exploited? Today, a filmmaker has to be sensitive towards children's needs, health and their priorities.