The Punjabi entertainment industry is reacting strongly to the government’s clearance of the law that doesn’t allow children aged up to 14 years to work in “any occupation or process”. The new amendment to the law makes no exception to child actors in television shows and films.
The definition clearly states that children cannot work for money or salary or daily wages, either during or after school hours. Any violation can attract a maximum punishment of three years and a fine of up to R50,000.
Though there aren’t many child-based television shows or films being produced by the local industry, those in the trade are in a fix, as child actors are needed for various scripts anyway, they argue. “How do we show a family without kids? Who will play the role of a child now? Or, does the government expect us to keep them out the scripts completely?” questions producer Darshan Singh Grewal of Jatt & Juliet and Dharti fame, clearly not too happy with the new law.
While the law intends to bring respite to many child actors who are known to work for gruelling hours, miss schools and playtime for their work in the entertainment industry, not all parents of such child actors are happy with the move.
“It is work when you are putting some mental or physical effort to a task, but shooting for a film is fun all the way. In fact, it is like playtime for them,” comes the argument from Yashpal Kapoor, father of two child actors Ekta, 13, and Ritika Kapoor, 12, from Ludhiana.
Even as he admits to his daughters taking many days off from school for the shootings in the state (both Ritika and Ekta feature in Akshay Kumar’s Joker and boast of roles in dozens of Punjabi and Bollywood films shot in Punjab), Kapoor argues that acting in films at such an early age has given them confidence. In fact, ready to exploit an exemption clause to the new amendment that allows children to ‘help’ after school hours, Kapoor says his daughters could continue to work on Sundays and at their own convenience.
Well-known Punjabi film actor, Gippy Grewal, who recently turned producer with Carry On Jatta, too does not welcome the ban on child actors, arguing there is nothing wrong with children working in films. He adds that he is not yet fully aware about the new amendment. Some, however, are welcoming the move.
Ravi Arora, business head, ETC Punjabi, perhaps the only channel in the region that produces family dramas and aired a school talk show titled Saada School recently, says the new law will ensure that children aren’t exploited in the industry. Arora says that the law will ensure that the ers adhere to guidelines provided by the government in order to make child actors feature in their shows or films.