indian cinema heritage foundation

Children's Films in India

14 Nov, 2022 | Archival Reproductions by Cinemaazi

The question of producing films for children is not simply a question of film production; it is a question of education, a question of the social and moral well-being of the entire community.
 
No doubt, when a film is certified for public exhibition, we give it a certificate saying that it is for "universal" exhibition or restricted to "adults only". There are films which, though certified for "universal" exhibition, may have a theme or a treatment of one which is beyond the comprehension of a child.
 
It can quite well happen that a film may, to an adult, be a very good one, but may give a distorted picture to a child. So even supposing we have the best and noblest of films produced in the country and allow them to be shown, I do not think it will be good education and a good psychological upbringing for a child to let him see them indiscriminately.
 
Of course, this does not imply that every film will have a harmful effect on a child, but there is no doubt whatsoever that the child will, many times, interpret what he sees in a film in a way very different from an adult. Therefore, even under the best conditions, it is important that children have films which they can understand and appreciate.
 
It is always possible that, if a child continuously sees such films, then a wrong picture and background might be created in his mind, which is not good either for him or for society.
 
A scene from the film 'Jawab Aayega' (1968) produced by 'Children's Film Society'.
Image courtesy:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npuOc_tD5mI
 
he case for having special films for children is incontestable. Nobody can deny it, and all over the world, in different countries, children's films are produced in great numbers.
The case for having special films for children is incontestable. Nobody can deny it, and all over the world, in different countries, children's films are produced in great numbers.

I have had the pleasure of talking to many producers, and they frankly confessed that producing children's films is a risk which they are reluctant to take on a big scale. Of course, here and there, a few such films might be produced. But the fact remains, that we have taken practically no steps in this country to produce films for children.
 
There is no doubt that the film has become the most important medium of mass entertainment. Therefore, we must utilise this medium for giving children the right sort of entertainment, and also, through that entertainment, the right sort of psychological education.
There is no doubt that the film has become the most important medium of mass entertainment. Therefore, we must utilise this medium for giving children the right sort of entertainment, and also, through that entertainment, the right sort of psychological education.
 
A booklet still of the film 'Minoo' (1977) from Cinemaazi archive.

When we established the Children's Film Society, the Government did not pretend to tackle the whole question of producing children's films. It is not possible for the Society to cater at once to the demands of children all over the country. It is a very big demand. The field is vast, and the greatest difficulty is that this is a very specialised line of production.
 
There are two obvious categories of children's films: Films for children below, say, the age of twelve, and for children above twelve, which we can call the adolescent age, when the child begins to grasp something of the adult world.
There are two obvious categories of children's films: Films for children below, say, the age of twelve, and for children above twelve, which we can call the adolescent age, when the child begins to grasp something of the adult world.
The world of young children is different, their language is different, their symbolism is different; and unless we are able to tackle the psychology of the young child in his own way, he will not understand the film shown to him....
It is possible that an "adolescent" child might easily grasp some of the themes, or rather simplified themes, of films presented for adults. But, for young children, those things will have no meaning.

The world of young children is different, their language is different, their symbolism is different; and unless we are able to tackle the psychology of the young child in his own way, he will not understand the film shown to him and, worse still, he may interpret what is being shown so wrongly that it will ultimately affect his whole life.
 
A booklet still of the film 'Mr India' (1987) from Cinemaazi archive.
 
The presentation of stories and themes so that children can appreciate, understand and enjoy them is a very difficult task. It is the task of a specialist, and such specialists cannot be produced by giving somebody a diploma. They have to be trained.
 
We shall have to create our own experts, and they will doubtless learn a lot from foreign experts, psychologists and others. But, probably, this is not simply a job for an expert. It is a job for one who is an artist as well.
 
One who is merely a psychological expert will not be able to produce a film. Therefore, we have to train artists who have a flair for producing children's films, who are at one with the child's psychology, who understand what a child will appreciate and who can produce what will please and benefit him.

In the last thirty or forty years, a number of books have been produced for children. I would not say that all of them are very good for children, or that all of them are exactly the kind of books children will understand. But there is an effort here to understand the child's mind and present something for him in his own simple language.
 
There have been people who have had the flair for doing this. Take the example of Hans Christian Andersen, the writer of fairy-tales. Why did he become immortal? Because he produced a world of their own for children, a world which children understand and enjoy. He could sympathise with, and appreciate, the child's mind and he wrote those fairy-tales for children.
 
Exactly in the same way, something will have to be tried through the medium of films. We might succeed, we might not succeed, but certainly we shall have produced something for children, a part of which at least will be understood and enjoyed by them.
The Government has established the Children's Film Society, because we felt that, though we have a Films Division which produces documentaries and has the technical experts, the production of children's films is too complicated a task to be tackled by the Films Division, for it requires the help and co-operation of educationists and of society in general.
The Government has established the Children's Film Society, because we felt that, though we have a Films Division which produces documentaries and has the technical experts, the production of children's films is too complicated a task to be tackled by the Films Division, for it requires the help and co-operation of educationists and of society in general.
 
A booklet still of the film 'Chhota Chetan' (1998) from Cinemaazi archive.
 
The Children's Film Society has been labouring hard to do the spade-work in this field, and its work has been difficult. When people criticise the productions of the Society, they do not realise the immensity of the problem and the tremendous difficulties which lay in the way.
 
It is easy to criticise the Society's work from an armchair, or for that matter anybody else's, but let it be remembered that this is a virgin field.
 
Nobody in the country has worked in the field systematically and the first few years of it are bound to be difficult. Only when we have built up a body of directors and competent technicians, able to write themes and preset them for children successfully, will the problems be solved effectively. That will take a little time.
 
The establishment of the Children's Film Society does not mean that we do not want private producers to produce films for children. The Society is a challenge to them, and we have established this Society not with the idea of creating a monopoly but in order to say to the private producer: "Look, we are trying to do this. Can you, too, do something of the same kind?"
I would certainly appeal to our big producers to do something about films meant for children. It is a contribution to the country's needs they ought to make.
I would certainly appeal to our big producers to do something about films meant for children. It is a contribution to the country's needs they ought to make. Their name and standing evoke response from the nation. They will, besides, enrich their own experience as film makers.
 
The Children's Film Society has had the good fortune to have Pandit Hridaynath Kunzru, a very distinguished public man of India, as its first Chairman. We had appointed Pandit Kunzru both because he takes a great interest in the welfare of children, including Scout and Girl Guide activities, and also because he was prepared to give a large part of his valuable time to this work, and he has really worked very hard to put the Society on a firm foundation.
 
A booklet still of the film 'Makdee' (2002) from Cinemaazi archive.

Now we have the good fortune to have as the Society's Chairman, Shri R.R. Diwakar, who understands the problems of film production and is also enthusiastically interested in the question of producing children's films.

The Society can boast of good chairman, and it also has a dedicated Secretary, Shri Mahendra Nath, and a very good Executive Committee who work hard and with a true missionary spirit. But, then, the task is also hard and the Society, I again say, may not be able to tackle it in a way which pleases everybody.
The Society has produced a few films. I have seen them, and they really are a good beginning, for it is intended to make a variety of films. But one of the most important tasks the Society has before it is the production of children's films in all the languages needed, in order to give them greater appeal to all the children in different part of the country.
The Society has produced a few films. I have seen them, and they really are a good beginning, for it is intended to make a variety of films. But one of the most important tasks the Society has before it is the production of children's films in all the languages needed, in order to give them greater appeal to all the children in different part of the country.

There are a dozen or more languages in which these films will have to be dubbed. It is not only a difficult task but also a costly one. Much money is required for this, and it is another problem the Society has to solve.

The Society, I think, deserves encouragement not only from Government, which is trying to do its best to help the Society, but also from the public at large - and the country's film producers.
I am glad that "Filmfare" is helping the Society's cause.
***
This feature is an archival reproduction of an article by Dr B V Keskar (former Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, 1952-1962) appeared  in Filmfare, November 6, 1959, p. 19.

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