The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Children find films ‘childish’

Mumbai, March 15: He thrusts a flower under her nose. She rejects it. So he brings the whole tree to her, which she gladly accepts.

Then they do a small dance, while the girl does a “dress-change” — she drops her jacket behind the cardboard tree and emerges in noodle straps.

A policeman and a criminal are beating the daylights out of each other, when they spot the same “tattoo” on each other’s wrists. “Bhaiya”, they cry, and become locked in an everlasting embrace.

Childish' That’s the word children reserve for Bollywood. At the session “Kids programming: A child’s right to entertainment” today at Frames, Ficci’s three-day entertainment convention that took off yesterday, the young citizens were allowed to have their say.

The skit, directed by Rael Padamsee, ended with the actors — all children — receiving a mysterious searing white light that changed their lives. The country’s film industry, they implied, is waiting for such a moment of change.

The participating adults talked about the problems faced by the makers of children’s films.

Sai Paranjpye, chairperson of Children’s Film Society of India, listed the severe constraints faced by the government body. Paranjpye had taken over as chairperson of the body, set up to finance children’s films in the country, five years ago.

“Tickets of films can’t be priced over Rs 5. A film has to be made within Rs 35 lakh, less than the cost of shooting a song for a Hindi film,” she said.

She asked for corporate sponsorship for children’s films, saying that there was good reason for investment. “About 34 percent of the country’s population is below the age of 14. Corporates can make children’s films looking at this market, not in the name of altruism, but hardcore business,” she said.

But her attempts to hardsell her society’s films as a good business proposition did not go down very well.

Prakash Chapalkar, owner of a multiplex in Pune, said showing children’s films was a well-intentioned project, but it should be done without motives of profit. A television industry person added that the Children’s Society films on the small screen never drew audiences.

Not everyone bought Paranjpye’s argument that the society made world-class films, either. A Class IX student, who with two others had been invited to speak about what they want, said that he found one of the society films very slow.

Eminent film personality Gulzar said the real problem with children’s films was lack of quality, because the films are made by people who have no connection with young minds.

“We have tried to pass on a lot of mediocrity to children. Anything with a moral is supposed to be good for them,” he said.

“We have only been recycling what we have been told in our childhood. We need to upgrade ourselves for our children. There was this man who would tell his son the same story about the old woman spinning the wheel on the moon. One day he told his son that his mother had been told this story by her mother. The son shot back that instead of taking all this trouble, they had just needed to inform Louis Armstrong,” he said.

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