No money, no focus, no good directors. Despite honourable exceptions like Makdee or Taare Zameen Par, children's films are struggling in India, feel experts.
Sai Paranjape, filmmaker and former chairperson of Children's Film Society of India (CFSI), said that lack of budgetary support is one of the major factors hampering the growth of children's films.
"Most filmmakers are not willing to shell out hefty budgets. So even if they are opting to make animation films, the films lack quality," Paranjape, who made slap stick comedy Chashme Buddoor, told IANS.
Nafisa Ali, current CFSI chairperson, said: "If people shell out Rs.20 crore (Rs.200 million) to make mainstream movies, to strike a balance, they should at least allocate Rs.2 crore (Rs.20 million) for children's films."
Commenting on the lack of quality in most children's films, Paranjape said: "Children's films are very demanding - they need trick scenes, fun, animation, music, popular actors and all that."
Acclaimed filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker said: "The Indian film industry has never focussed at making quality cinema for children. Children's cinema is a totally neglected sector in India. I won't say it never existed. It existed only when Vishal Bharadwaj and Santosh Sivan made films. More recently, Taare Zameen Par is a wonderful example of a children's film."
Masoom, Makdee, The Blue Umbrella, Halo and Taare Zameen Par are the only children's films worth mentioning, the two filmmakers say.
Amole Gupte, the writer of widely applauded Taare Zameen Par, pointed out that Indian filmmakers also lack clarity when it comes to categorising children's films.
"The Indian film industry is very confused about the concept of children's films and whatever we have is not quality stuff," he felt.
Ravi Chopra's Bhootnath is an example of the confusion. The first half of the film is light, but post-interval it becomes too preachy and heavy for children.
"Parents are also trying to discourage children from watching good films. International cinema provides some wonderful films like Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Kung Fu Panda and many others," said Gupte.
Indian animation films, however, are doing well. My Friend Ganesha, Bal Ganesh, Hanuman, Hanuman Returns and others became very popular amongst children. Gupte says: "The Indian animation industry is expanding but it still has a long way to go."
Although others evoke the gloomy side, Nafisa Ali is hopeful about a bright future for this section of the Indian film industry.
"I hope we also get the involvement of better directors. As the chairperson of this body, I feel Jawaharlal Nehru's vision regarding children was so important and relevant. Today, we need family-based cinema," she said.
Paranjape feels CFSI can help in creating awareness about children's movies.
"Ideally, CFSI should not bear the brunt of not showing quality children's cinema. All filmmakers need to realise that children form a very important part of our society. The problem is that filmmakers do not consider a children's film a commercial film," Paranjape explained.
"Today, films are not being made for altruistic reasons. It is all for personal benefit. Children form a very minimal section of the audience and most of the halls schedule children's films for morning and afternoon shows.
"But children, unless they are in their mid-teens or late-teens, can't go to a film alone. So that rules out the possibility of them going for a movie," said Paranjape.
Manju Singh of the WorldKids Foundation, who had recently organised a WorldKids International Film Festival (WIFF), says that children want to watch "quality cinema".
"We are, as a body, working towards initiatives to encourage children's filmmaking. And I feel rather than making film only for children, we should concentrate more on films that the entire family can watch. Films should have a message and should provide entertainment with a purpose," said Manju, who was seen as Amol Palekar's younger sister in Golmaal.