Another children’s day has gone by, and there is the usual burst of advice on how to raise kids better, what with all the negative influences around. But Bollywood still does not make enough films for children—a film like Halkaa, released earlier this year is not an ideal example.
Hollywood films, particularly the excellent animation movies (most produced by Disney Pixar) manage to entertain and slip in a message about family values, inclusivity and universal love. In India, most of the films made with or about children have an unappealing sanctimoniousness to them. The well-meaning but poorly budgeted, films from the Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI), hardly ever make the cut. And kids are almost never exposed to films from other countries, besides the US—unless they have unusually aware parents—and that does create a wide cultural lacuna.
The best children’s films are the ones that also work for grown-ups, so film viewing can be a family activity, and that formula Hollywood has perfected. The best, sweetest and most imaginative children’s films come from Iran—and Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven is an acknowledged masterpiece that has left a trail of moist eyes wherever it has been screened. A story so simple and so moving it is a marvel. It is a known fact that children’s films blossomed in Iran because strict censorship laws made it difficult for filmmakers to deal with adult subjects. Marathi cinema has taken a leaf from that book. The best non-mainstream studio animation films come from Canada and East Europe, where there is government support for them.
In India, the CFSI is supported by the government too, but there is no satisfactory infrastructure created for the commercial screening of these films. They do make it to various festivals though, and reach out to schools. Once in a while comes a mainstream film like the Koi Mil Gaya franchise, inspired by Hollywood films—that has got a kiddie fan following in India. Mostly, kids are watching adult content, which is sometimes unsuitable for them.
Mumbai (and other cities) need more film festivals for children--like the Prithvi Festival of children’s plays, that has initiated a whole bunch of Mumbai’s kids to the joys of theatre. Kids today are growing up in such a toxic environment, every little effort to create a better world would go a long way.