Forum sans focus, seriousness

MONEY MATTERS: Filmmakers discussed the problems of making children's films.  

THE OPEN forum on `Children's Films at Various Film Festivals' on the penultimate day lacked focus while theopen forum on the last day made light of the subject of "What after the First Asian Children's Film Festival?" with an indifferent, non-serious attitude by some of the panelists.

U. Radhakrishnan, Secretary, Federation of Film Societies of India said the Government of India had agreed to telecast a certain number of children's films a year, on the condition that they would be dubbed in Hindi. While Radhakrishnan said this was not an acceptable condition, the FFSI has agreed to it.

Veda Kumar, President, CFS AP, who presided over the session, tried to get the speakers to throw light on festivals they had attended. Other panelists included Vijaya Pratap; Hyderabad based filmmaker, Somaratne Dissanayake from Sri Lanka and U. Radhakrishnan. U. Radhakrishnan, while appreciating the importance of film festivals for children, highlighted the importance of developing "film culture." He said film societies should conduct workshops on film appreciation in various schools and colleges. He said there is nothing like a "children's film. Films can be `good' or `bad,' and those giving a message can be called children's films. Children should know `filmography' to be able to differentiate between good and bad films, and that is what festivals and film society movements must teach.

Vijaya Pratap said TV channels could play a major role in promoting children's films with slots for good cinema, so as to reach rural audiences. Children, she said can learn from films made with a `universal' audience in mind.

One of the children, Rahul wanted to know if Indian films are shown in festivals abroad as well.and Pranit wished to know the aim of children's film festivals,

One of the young girls in audience took Dissanayake to task on his comment that working with children was "hard." Dissanayake elaborated saying that one has to understand child psychology to be able to direct them, and win their love and trust. It is, he admitted, "a trick" that not all can master, and a big challenge.

Skits by the children followed the session from the dramatic workshop. If the subject matter and treatment were anything to go by, it proved that all these days of film viewing had not helped remove certain clich�s and stereotypes. The skit called Indian Train, (from Neeraj Public School) was an exaggerated and highly improbable presentation of a nightmare train journey with an unrealistic portrayal of a "pile-on." The other one called The Chameleon (Oxford Grammar School) showed people abusing a street dog and finally pampering the dog when they realised it was a minister's dog. The session on 20th had big names like filmmakers K. Vishwanath (who admitted, that he was the "wrong person" to have been invited as he had not seen single film at the festival), Thammareddi Bharadwaja and film journalist Vasiraju Prakasam.

The panelists touched all aspects except the topic of discussion, namely, "what next." K. Vishwanath said festivals were a good way of interacting with other cultures and people. He suggested the inclusion of questionnaires, which may be used for feedback.

Thammredi Bharadwaja, like Vishwanath had "nothing to say." Vasiraju Prakasam spoke of his "five point appeal" to the State government - that the AP State Film Development Corporation have a children's wing, special encouragement be given to child artistes, theatres screen three children's films a week by government order, the promise of subsidy to children's filmmakers be immediately disbursed and the government grant land for the CFSAP to build a children's theatre complex.

When children wondered if Vishwanath would make a children's film, he said most of his films were meant for a universal audience and films like Shankarabharanam had a message, namely to introduce children to the beauty of Indian classical music. To a suggestion from a child that children from slums should also be seeing the films, Om Dev (from the CFSAP) promised that it would be looked into.

The last day's session was followed by the screening of two films made by children at the filmmaking workshop -- Sit-ups (directed by Krishnakant, Pranit and Shraddha), and The Gift (directed by Nasira Anjum and Rohan).

Sit-ups is the story of a schoolboy, Ronu, who goes through a personal turmoil in order to complete his punishment of 50 sit-ups.The Gift was about the friendship between a boy and girl and how they are saved from separation. While both films showed some of the things children dream about, there were some aspects like the use of a background score that spoiled the effect.

It remains to be seen as to how many more festivals would be required to break stereotypes and develop a new vision.