No Child’s Playhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/no-childs-play-7/

No Child’s Play

The industry discusses what ails children’s films and why clever marketing is crucial to success.

The industry discusses what ails children’s films and why clever marketing is crucial to success.

Growing up,Sonam Nair always felt that her teen years were particularly difficult since she was overweight. Her unpleasant experiences — the bullying and teasing by classmates and her parents’ insistence that she diet — sparked a desire in Nair to make a film that would talk about how difficult it can get for children with weight issues. But once she had penned Gippi,following her stint as an assistant director on Wake Up Sid,she was unsure as to who would invest in a movie for children. “But Wake Up Sid director,Ayan Mukerji,liked my script and passed it on to Karan Johar,who immediately decided to come on board as the producer,” she says.

While Nair got lucky,her dilemma after having written the script reflects the state of children’s films in India. With the genre never considered “profitable”,filmmakers,for most part,have had to rely on Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI) for funding. “So many renowned makers have tried to dabble in the genre but have had a tough time getting finances — be it Vishal Bhardwaj with Makdee and The Blue Umbrella or Vikas Bahl,who despite having worked with the biggest of Indian studios as a producer,had to struggle to make Chillar Party,” says Nair.

But the biggest issue with children’s films,according to Gulzar,is their content. The veteran screenwriter-director,who is extensively involved with developing content for children across various media,said at the 3rd Screenwriters Conference in Mumbai that most filmmakers try to talk down to their audience. “Children may be less experienced about life but they feel the same basic emotions as we do. So instead of defining characters in black and white,real characters with shades of grey will appeal to them more,” he says.

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The stories,however,should have a more universal storyline,argues Nila Madhab Panda,the director of I am Kalam,so that they will appeal to parents who accompany their children to the theatres,case in point being Home Alone and Kung Fu Panda. Nair seconds him,adding that Gippi has a strong nostalgia factor that should strike a chord with parents.

Gulzar believes filmmakers can also take the stories from mythology forward,as Chhota Bheem and The Throne of Bali does. Monica Wahi,creative head at CFSI,says that literature offers a huge pool of resource. “Shakespeare can be told to five-year-olds as well as adults; it is the telling that changes,” she says,citing the example of Satyajit Ray’s classic Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne being adapted as animation by Shilpa Ranade.

There are times,however,when a film is made well and fulfils all these criteria,but weak marketing causes it to fail at the box office. This,says Nair,is where big production houses such as Johar’s Dharma Productions should step in. “Having him on board was great guidance,but the biggest advantage is that Karan has in place a strong plan for marketing Gippi (which releases in May),which often decides a film’s future,” says Nair.

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