In her third year as the chairperson of the Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI), actor-director Nandita Das has a reason to celebrate. The 80-minute Hindi feature, Gattu, directed by Rajan Khosa and produced by CFSI, is the only official entry from India at the Berlin Film Festival. The only other Indian film there will be Shah Rukh Khan’s Don 2 (2011).
Nandita, who waded through many boring and preachy scripts in an effort to revamp the 57-year-old CFSI, says she won’t be surprised if Gattu is picked up by an agent in Germany. “When a small film like this ventures beyond the usual geographical borders, it sparks off interest within too,” she reasons, pointing out that CFSI needs all the support it can get because unlike China, Netherlands and Denmark, India doesn’t focus on children’s cinema.
With Shemaroo, she has repackaged 10 CFSI films and is in talks with bookstores like Landmark to stock them. “For lack of choice and since we are one-TV households, our kids grow up either watching movies about violence and vengeance or soaps and reality shows. I’ve been struggling to ensure that films like Gattu not only get made, but also don’t end up in the cans,” says Nandita, who has been involved with the film throughout. “It was my first experience as a producer in a country where economics often comes in the way of art. Had Guttu been a big banner production, the news would have been all over by now.”
The film revolves around Gattu, a street urchin, who dreams of defeating Kali, a black kite in the sky. Nandita grew up flying kites with her cousins and Aamir Khan in Deepa Mehta’s 1947: Earth (1998). “We have festivals like Sankranti and Uttarayan, but today, it’s rare to see a kite in the sky,” she sighs pointing out that gadgets and social networking sites have taken children away from outdoor sports. “I’d want my son Rehaan to fly a kite.”
After working closely on Gattu, her dream of directing a children’s film has been rekindled. “Maybe one day, soon,” she smiles, adding that she’s also been reading scripts. “I’ve always been selective. Now it’ll have to be a special project for me to sacrifice my time with Rehaan, who’s a year-and-a-half. But some look interesting, by mid-year I should be back to acting.”