Better films for little ones

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By (Contributed by Sibendu Das, Romila Saha and Sudeshna Banerjee )
  • Published 25.07.10

What is good cinema for children? Is it cinema that sees the world with the eyes of children? Or cinema that brings out the complex issues of life in a simple way? Or cinema that does not preach, but allows children to come to their own conclusion? Perhaps there is one answer: Good cinema for children is cinema that brings out the child in us.

Unfortunately, today Indian cinema is more focussed on crime, sex and politics. It has no time for children. This is surprising for a country which has no dearth of folktales, mythology, magic, fantasy and, moreover, great technical expertise, especially in animation.

It is to create a culture of cinema for children in India that Comet Media Foundation along with the Children’s Film Society of India has initiated Filmi Chashma, a one-year project, to sensitise young filmmakers to make children’s films, says Subha Das Mollick, project head of the Calcutta chapter. A workshop was held at Chitrabani, a media institute on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, from July 22 to July 24, for media students.

The project also aims to sensitise teachers to use cinema in the classroom. “We screen films like Gone with the Wind to teach about American civil war,” said Amita Prasad, middle school co-ordinator, Modern High School for Girls, who participated in a workshop for teachers.

The project will culminate in the Filmi Chashma Utsav, a film festival held in Calcutta, Delhi and Chennai for the young and young at heart, in April 2011. The curtain raiser to the programme saw the screening of a documentary, Shooting Stars by Saptarshi Mondal and Pritha Biswas. The film addresses the issue of child artistes and the ways a director handles them to bring out the best performances in a film.

Tricks he played

Now his hand wobbles and the dexterity of former years is no more. But once juggler Abhoy Mitra travelled across the country with his entourage and was reputable enough to have found a place in a Satyajit Ray film.

Mitra’s fondest memory is of a summer evening in 1978 when he showed his juggling tricks to Satyajit Ray at the director’s Bishop Lefroy Road residence.

Ray was impressed with his knife throwing skills and used him in his film Joy Baba Felunath. Mitra did the actual knife throwing in the scene where Jatayu (played by Santosh Dutta) is pinned to a cardboard target by the villain Maganlal Meghraj while an old juggler, played by Kamu Mukherjee, throws knives perilously close to the outline of his body, but always on the mark.

Mitra, called Lathida by friends, also performed the actual juggling in Sandip Ray’s 1983 film Phatik Chand and appeared in a scene in Goopy Bagha Phire Elo in 1991 where he juggled with fire while standing on a roller balance in the king’s palace. He travelled to Paris in 1991 and to New Zealand in 2006 to perform.

Mitra, now 71, still performs, but not very often. “I will perform in Mumbai during Durga Puja,” he says.

The tallest leader

Mamata Banerjee led Nazrul Islam, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, C.R. Das and others down CR Avenue on Wednesday (Picture by Sudeshna Banerjee). Carrying the flex portraits of the leaders to the meeting venue were 12 van-rickshaws that ambled their way from Girish Park. Mamata’s portrait was double the others in height though the others had garlands to show. “We are being paid Rs 100 for the trip. Usually we carry all kinds of loads but it's different today,” said Biswanath Maiti, reaching his journey’s end next to Chandni Chowk metro station. “They look like an array of Metro station names, or probable ones,” smirked a passer-by, looking at the vans parked one after the other.