The Dangal (2016) director was speaking at the festival in Goa about why India hasn’t got its own children’s film with global appeal.
IFFI 2017: We are battling a mindset while making children’s films, says Nitesh Tiwari
Panaji - 22 Nov 2017 22:36 IST
Updated : 23 Nov 2017 12:10 IST
The genre of children’s films is a tricky one. One might joke that many Hindi films are actually quite childish in essence. But writer-poet Prasoon Joshi, chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), sought to correct this common notion of equating the absurd with children’s content.
Joshi was moderating the first panel discussion at the 48th edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which saw a passionate debate on children’s films in India. On the panel were filmmaker Nitesh Tiwari, Rajiv Chilaka, founder & CEO of Green Gold Animation, and Devika Prabhu, executive director, content, Disney India.
Joshi began the discussion by reading out the lyrics of the song ‘Taare Zameen Par’ from the 2007 film of the same name. Talking about the idea behind the song, Joshi said, “When we did this song, the idea was that the similes for children should never end. We should keep celebrating the beauty and the world of children, and should never run out of metaphors.”
Setting the tone for the discussion, the lyricist spoke of how Taare Zameen Par and Majid Majidi's film Children Of Heaven (1997) were about children and asked if they were also for children.
Answering the question, Tiwari cited the example of his films Chillar Party (2011), Bhoothnath Returns (2014) and Dangal (2016). “Personally I feel a film which has a kid as a protagonist need not be a children’s film," he said. "Similarly, a film which does not have kids in it can also be a children’s film. It depends on the context, the subject, the story.”
Tiwari mentioned that Chillar Party was written predominantly for kids but they struggled to find a director and producer. “There are certain gigs that will tickle kids but not adults," he said. "These days kids have evolved. Even in Chillar Party, the kids had their own personalities and nicknames. Today’s kids are in a dilemma as they don’t find their own voice.”
When Joshi asked if it was required to think specially for children when making films for them, Chilaka said, “The kids’ world is a fantastic world to start with. Around 50% of TV viewers are below 14 years of age. When we make films for kids at Green Gold, we think like children. Kids, we notice, have a great affinity towards superheroes, fantasy, the things that are not real.”
Talking about localizing content, given that Disney films have a Western mentality, Prabhu said, “Brand Disney has values that are timeless and universal. A lot of devices of filmmaking are used locally. There is a lot of emphasis on devices of storytelling like humour, music. A story that has a journey, you will follow through. It is important to maintain a balance.”
She also highlighted the need for role-playing among children: “It internalizes that character for them. Role-playing is also a means of empowerment for kids. When they start role-playing is when you know the film has achieved its task.”
When Cinestaan.com asked how long India would have to wait for an Indian film like the Pixar production Inside Out (2015), which has been praised for animation, story, concept, and subject matter, the panellists were hopeful of the country producing an animation film for global release as early as 2020.
Chilaka, who has successfully created the Chhota Bheem character, highlighted how in terms of technology, quality, and look and feel, India has been ready for a while. He said technicians from Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Kolkata were already making films not just for the USA and France but across the world. “The technicians are there. Lots of these movies are currently being made out of India at the backend, not on the front because the creative intelligence is coming right now from different parts of the world, not just USA and France. There is a lot of talent.”
Speaking about the strengths of Indian animators, Chilaka was frank enough to admit that the country is lacking in certain departments. “What we lack right now is the visual development part, which is being developed now. We are looking at 3-4 years away, probably 2020 or 2021, when India would have a good animation film being made and released globally. It is just a matter of time."
The Green Gold CEO said the country has great talent and a lot of collaborations are happening. "For example, we are collaborating with some writers in Hollywood to make a feature film which is CGI [computer-generated imagery] for the global market. So it’s just a matter of time. Technology-wise we are ready. Experience-wise India is lacking certain things, especially visual development, but we are almost there.”
His positive sentiments were echoed by Prabhu, who said that Indians are a lot more open to experimentation today. She insisted that with this attitude, coupled with the advances in technology, it won’t be long before something world-class is created here.
“Creatively I think we have great scriptwriters, great storytellers in this country," the Disney executive said. "More and more they are opening up to new concepts and to looking at things differently. I think we are getting there.
"One thing we should always remember, also creatively when we make stuff for kids, is to have fun with it. If we have fun making it, and if we can translate that fun into an on-screen experience for children, then no matter how challenging that journey is for the main protagonist, that is something that kids will like. Inside Out was one example of that, Taare Zameen Par is another. There is such a strong message and value. There was so much fun that everybody was having."
Tiwari, who advocated the need for a healthy mix of reading books and watching films, highlighted the challenges faced by makers of children’s films. “We are also battling a mindset," he said. "Bollywood movies will not be accepted down South. South movies will take a Baahubali to cut across everything. As a country it’s always been a struggle. In advertising too, we used to have two masters, one in Hindi and the other in Tamil, because a Hindi master wouldn’t cut across the South. That is another big battle that we need to sort. The acceptance is huge when it comes to outside stuff. A Jungle Book and Inside Out will be readily accepted in the country, but with a Hindi film the acceptance is only in 6-7 states.”