Bollywood mandarins have a special affinity to their young audience. Release dates are managed to suit their convenience, avoid big releases in Feb-March (exam time!) but come April (and the summer vacations) every producer starts coaxing & cajoling the distributors for pushing their films harder than the other. But despite these considerations, over the years film-makers have hardly made honest attempts at making films which appeal to children only, one lesson they have not been able to borrow from their Hollywood counterparts where there is a surfeit of films catering only to the young audience.
Ask any 13 year old from for his favourite character from popular culture, it would inevitably be an Edward Cullen or a Harry Potter…but favourite actor will either one of Shah Rukh/Aamir/Hrithik or Salman. The point is, our industry has given them idols through the personas that our stars portray on the celluloid, but when it comes to relatable characters we lag far behind in the race. But on the occasion of Children’s Day, IIFA brings to you a list of gems from Indian Cinema which spoke to children and adults in a language that both were able to comprehend and relate to.
Mr India (1987):
Shekhar Kapur’s blockbuster adapts the myth of the “invisible man” to Indian setting and makes him a crusader against corruption who takes on an international crime syndicate to save an orphanage. All the actors gave career defining performances; Anil Kapoor as Mr India and Amrish Puri as the legendary Mogambo were terrific to say the least. Children, those who were cast on-screen and those who watched the film, had a blast with Mr India. It tickled them silly, and also taught them the old super-hero adage – with great powers, come great responsibilities. Also, for the children of 80s, having a desi superhero was kind of cool!
Taare Zameen Par (2007):
Aamir Khan’s directorial debut was of a precocious 8-year old child, Ishaan (Darsheel Safary), was one of the rare films in recent times that got critical acclaim and commercial success in equal measure. Written by Amol Gupte, TZP is about Ishaan’s artistic talent neglected by his utilitarian parents & “result oriented” teachers for whom a 100% in mathematics is the only yardstick of success. What they fail to see are the symptoms of Dyslexia which is threatening to subdue Ishaan’s artistic talents before a sympathetic art teacher (Aamir Khan) comes to his rescue. The film was screened in many films, while a lot of teachers and educators appreciated the filmmakers for shedding light on the difficulties that differently-abled children go through on a day-to-day basis. As an aside, Aamir Khan’s Mohawk hair-cut also caught on with children post the films’ release. Music is another strong point in the film.
Vishal Bhardwaj is by far one of the finest filmmakers of our age, and Makdee was small production which brought big acclaim for the director as it won the second prize at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and Shweta Prasad won the National Film Award for Best Child Artist for portraying the role of twin sister, Chunni & Munni, in the film. The film is about a mansion haunted by a witch (Shabana Azmi) on the fringes of the village where Chunni & Munni live with their grandmother and father. People across age group appreciated the film, and the children just went berserk by Chunni & her side-kick Mughle-Azam’s shenanigans, while enthralled at the same time by her bravery in rescuing her sister and host of other people from the evil witches’ clutches.
A Mani Ratnam classic, Anjali is the story of a girl born with terminal illness. Little Anjali is almost destined to not live beyond a certain age, but despite her tender age and lack of ability to comprehend things as they are she spreads unconditional warmth wherever she goes. A story of how the judgmental societal structure needs a ray of sunshine to temper the negative tide, this gem of a film bagged the prestigious National Award in multiple categories; best film, best child artist (Shamili, Tarun & Shruthi), and best audiography. The title track composed by Illayaraja is still popular amongst children.
A heart warming animation film which brought Indian mythology alive to children in a non-didactic way, Hanuman was a film that never suggested that it will appeal to a “wider audience”; all pretences were dropped. An out-an-out kiddie flick, Hanuman tells the journey of this desi super-hero like figure from his birth to his alliance with Lord Rama in the war against “evil”. An intelligent script, with some witty dialogues combined to let children have a whale of a time during this 90-minute long film. Children hooted with joy while the producers went home with a bagful of money, everybody lived happily ever after.
We end this post with the timeless song from Masoom, another film where fate of a child was the focus of the story although the subject was a bit too mature to include in the list. Anyway enjoy Gulzar sa’ab and RD Burman’s fablesque composition