Vinod Ganatra says children’s films have very few takers. Neither parents nor schools encourage any interest in children for them

Indian parents will take their children for a Harry Potter film, or any other glamorous Bollywood film, but a children’s film is still seen as a documentary — children’s filmmaker Vinod Ganatra’s observations sadly rings true.

In Bangalore recently for the Children’s India International Children’s Film Festival as a jury member, Ganatra points out how parents are only one of the four factors why children’s films are not taken seriously in India. Schools, which should nurture new thinking and expose children to new ideas get bogged down by logistics of taking kids out for a festival like this, he rues. “I remember as a kid going to see Hum Pancchi Ek Daal Ke from my school…” he smiles fondly. The government, whose duty it is to promote children’s films through film festivals, organises one only every alternate year.

Moreover children’s films hardly find place in regular film festivals, he argues. Ganatra, a veteran at film festivals, has served at almost 59 film festivals worldwide as jury in the last two decades.

“I have travelled the world over attending film festivals. Yet, I haven’t witnessed the atmosphere and enthusiasm here that I see elsewhere in the world. You know, at the Berlin International Film Festival, when my film was being screened, I was moved to see a young father stand in queue when it was snowing, with two kids strapped on to him to buy tickets!,” says a thoroughly impressed Ganatra.

Both Ganatra’s debut Gujarati children’s film Heda-Hoda (The Blind Camel), and his latest Harun-Arun narrate stories of the innocent world of children, far removed from the borders and distances countries and their adults create between themselves, set in the India-Pakistan scenario. Harun-Arun won the Liv Ullmann Peace Prize at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.

“I’m the first Indian to win this award,” he says with obvious pride. “But when I approached so-called secular celebrities and film stars to help me take the film to show it in Pakistan, no one responded. Everyone just talks…”

His second film Lukka-Chhuppi finds a place in Limca Book of Records as the first children’s film to be fully shot at the highest altitude, in Ladakh. Ganatra has directed and edited about 400 documentaries and news reels, and produced 2 TV programmes for children and youth.

His NGO, Children’s Audio-Visual Education Foundation organises workshops and screenings of films for children, specially in rural areas, he says.

While all his three films have been funded by the Children’s Film Society, he says children’s films usually don’t get enough funding and aren’t supported by adequate marketing, either. “The fourth factor I blame is the media. Nobody writes about us. Everyone talks of Bollywood. Without media support no one will watch our films…it’s an age when people see things that are held right in front of their eyes,” he says, disappointed.