In focus ‘Punni Ki Kahaniyan' – a children's film that focuses on the multiculturalism and ethnic diversity

U nity in Diversity is probably one of the recurring chapters that are taught in school. The monotonous lines are somehow lost in the dreary classrooms and only few children grasp the true meaning of multiculturalism and plural identity. By the time they reach adulthood, religious, gender, geographic and language divide have seeped into their lives, conforming to the existing stereotypes. However, when the same lesson is narrated by an animated character, enacted by some of their peers, the impact is different.

“I didn't understand the word multiculturalism but when I started working on the film, I finally understood the rich diversity of our country,” says 12 year old Sanchit Jhunjhunwala who played the role of Ramsaran in, Punni Ki Kahaniyan.

This 18-minute film was produced and conceptualised by Aide et Action International (AEAI) South Asia; a non-profit organisation in an effort to promote cultural harmony and religious tolerance among children. “Children are very receptive to animation these days and this medium has become an effective medium for them to acquire knowledge. Using the same medium we wanted to encourage appreciation of diversity,” says Rajiv Pratap Singh, Regional Director, AEAI who conceptualised the Animation for Change project.

Once the concept was finalised, it was the director and scriptwriter who took over to materialise the idea. “The idea was to bring children of different caste, culture and religion on one platform. So we thought of an inter-school cultural programme where the various characters can come and develop the rest of the story,” explained Alind Jaitley who is a graduate of Film and Television Institute, Pune. Punni, the animated character was the sutradhar supported by child actors who played the various characters.“Children today are sophisticated viewers so there was no necessity of dumbing or simplifying the content. The film otherwise is audio visually very colourful therefore appealing to the children,” clarifies Vaishali Bisht, the scriptwriter. Director, Alind Jaitley adds that by establishing existing stereotypes and then slowly deconstructing them, formed the core of the film. In fact, most of the child actors have been part of amateur plays and have taken acting lessons. “Working with children is always a pleasure as they have no demands and quickly adjust to the demands of the script,” explained the happy director.

A film targeting the age group of eight to eighteen years has only child actors and has received tremendous response from various states and schools. In Vaishali Bisht's words, “ Punni Ki Kahaniyan is a children film that contains a message and is not blatantly commercial.”