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Fun, funds and friends hope for children films

Mumbai, Oct. 8: Some eyebrows are still raised, but Raveena Tandon’s appointment as chairperson of the Children’s Film Society of India is being looked at as a shot in the arm for the lifeless organisation.

The actress is expected to turn things around at the society that has been suffering from lack of funds as well as ideas. There are whispers that her appointment is political. But industry watchers are ready to brush them off in favour of Raveena’s youth and enthusiasm and give the “mast mast girl” — also a National Award winner — a chance.

She is expected to inject youthful enthusiasm, Bollywood business savvy, big bucks, and no less important, a large dose of fun into the society’s films. For though the motto of the society is “A Child’s Right to Entertainment”, not many children think of the society’s films that way. Not many get to watch them in the first place.

It is a problem that Raveena is fully alive to. Exuberant after her first meeting at the society today — she took over on October 6 — she gushes about bringing new life to the organisation with a little bit of help from her Bollywood friends.

“The main problem is reaching the films to the children. I will try to put in place a distribution network for the society’s films,” she says. “I will try to get theatrical releases for the films,” she promises.

“I will talk to financiers,” she adds, since the current budgets for films produced by the society are pitifully low, about Rs 42-45 lakh. An animation film is produced on an average budget of Rs 12 lakh.

Former chairperson Sai Paranjpe, from whom Raveena took over, had often spoken about the budgetary constraints that prevented the making of good films.

Society chief executive officer Satish Pendherkar, however, believes that reasonably good films can be made on these budgets.

With knowledge of other aspects of the mainstream cinema — the actress also produced the film Stumped — Raveena says she will try to marry “art” and “parallel” elements for the society.

Given the shortage of funds, she says she will try to persuade her Bollywood star friends to make guest appearances in the society’s projects.

From now, Raveena says, it will be quality, not quantity that counts. There are several films churned out by the society, but not many are appreciated.

“We will make two films every year, if necessary. We will try to get good directors and good projects. Worldwide it is children’s films like Harry Potter that rule. Why can’t we do it here'” she asks.

“We will make films that are good entertainment,” she says.

Now, her priority is the festival that is kicking off on Children’s Day, in which some of the films from the existing repertoire will be shown.

The actress says she is keen to work with NGOs like CRY for screening of films for children.

Raveena’s are unorthodox views, coming after the lacklustre tenures of actress Jaya Bachchan and Paranjpe. But not many — even those involved in “parallel” cinema — are complaining.

“She just might be able to revive the society,” says critic Amrit Gangar. “She is young and dynamic and the society needs funds,” he adds.

“We can’t write her off saying that she is from mainstream cinema and doesn’t have experience of children’s cinema,” says film journalist Rauf Ahmed. “That way, anyone’s credentials can be questioned. She may be able to pump in Bollywood resources into the society,” he adds.

“But we will have to see how much she lives up to the promise,” he says.

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