Come, Dive With Me
- December 1, 2009
My last piece was about travelling to film festivals as a director. Now as chairperson of the Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI), I find myself on the other side of the table as an organiser. It entails everything from envisioning a festival to ensuring every peg is in its place. But with every new challenge, I can see how my varied experiences are coming to the rescue.
While a daunting task, it is also an exciting opportunity to make a small difference to the world of children’s films in India. CFSI was setup in 1955 with the mission of reaching children all over the country through wholesome entertainment with a purpose. With 250 films in our kitty, we reach about 34 lakh children every year.
So when I was asked if I would take up the responsibility of becoming the chairperson of CFSI, I was torn. The timing couldn’t have been worse. I had just finished Firaaq, returned from a much-deserved break, was ready to plunge into writing a new script and reading those that were waiting to be read as an actor. So to accept an honorary assignment that would take up a lot of time and mind space didn’t seem like the smartest decision. But the opportunity to revitalise an organsation with immense potential was quite tempting. So I relented.
Now three months later, I am aware of some of the critical challenges attract great talent, evolve a good distribution network and make the organisation truly vibrant and sustainable. This needs intervention at every level and it is imperative to involve children, our main stakeholders, in the entire process. I have begun doing that with children participating in selecting films and forming of the children’s jury for the upcoming festival. I see the commitment of the CFSI team, which makes me believe that in my three-year tenure, we together will make a difference. I thought I had used up all my goodwill in making Firaaq, but I am glad to know that there is still some left! I keep getting calls from filmmakers, writers and educators offering to help.
But we are compelled to swim against the tide. To create a viable alternative to the kind of films and television shows that children are watching is not easy. How do you change the taste of an entire generation that is growing up on a completely different diet? Personally, I seldom watch television. But when I do, what is most disturbing, apart from the onslaught of breaking news every hour, film promos on every channel, painted faces in every serial, is to see little children compete in reality shows. They talk like adults, gyrate like in the movies, cry or celebrate like their life depended on it. It seems they are growing up just too fast. Scary! But instead of complaining, I think it is more constructive to create alternatives.
But before we even look for answers, we will have to ask some fundamental questions. How do we define children’s films? Why are children’s films invisible in India? Shouldn’t right to entertainment be every child’s right? The list of questions is long and their answers, fuzzy. In the upcoming International Children’s Film Festival in Hyderabad from November 14 to 20, all these will be debated in open forums. Apart from the screenings of films from all over the world, we have workshops for children on themes like animation and film-making. It will be a festival that provides space for interactions, dialogue and celebration.
If I sound like I am using this piece to promote an agenda, then so be it. I know I have taken on this responsibility seriously. But either one goes all the way, or one goes all the way! For me at least there is no other choice. But in my new mission I am not diving in alone. I hope to take all those who are ready to dive in with me. So check out www.cfsindia.org and find out how you can become a friend of CFSI to support and encourage quality films for children. Welcome to children’s world!