The criticism against adult content in children’s cinema is nothing new, and I have heard this since the early years of the International Children’s Film Festival, now into its 17th edition here.
At a press conference here yesterday, one of the arguments against the movies being screened at the festival was that they had a content not entirely suitable for Indian children.
While both Nandita Das, Chairperson of the Children’s Film Society of India (which organises the festival) and Sushovan Banerjee, the Society’s CEO, defended the decision to show the so-called offending movies, I felt that the very condemnation itself was baseless.
The three films that came in for criticism were Canada’s Cargo for Africa (where a woman’s body is described), China’s The Star and the Sea (an attempted rape scene) and Germany’s The Crocodiles Strike Back (some vague description about sex). And all these had been marked for 10 or 13 plus children.
Yet, I saw hundreds of schoolchildren much younger than 10 or 13 years of age – brazenly escorted by their teachers -- trooping into the auditoriums showing these three movies. At one such screening, when a volunteer refused to let in the children, their teachers were seen protesting against the decision. "The children have been waiting since the morning, and they would be disappointed if we were to take them back…" the teachers said.
Now, to lay the blame on the festival will be terribly unfair in a situation like this. I feel that the the role of the community (teachers and parents in particular) is what is to be questioned.
Beyond the Festival is the far more disturbing issue of children being bombarded by images unsuitable for them, be it the internet or television or even cinema. The recent Shah Rukh Khan-starrer, RA.One (which got the box-office into an ecstacy), has been promoted as fare for the young, and it contains such vulgar images and innuendoes that even adults could feel nauseated by them.
And, in Chennai --- as in India’s other cities and towns – I have seen very young children walking into adult cinema with their parents.
I suppose parents and teachers ought to be the child’s first points of censorship.