Barbaric, cruel and inhumane: Amole Gupte unveils the truth behind kids’ reality shows
Writer-director Amole Gupte, known for making children’s films, and for being the chairperson of the Children’s Film Society, has put the spotlight on the ‘cruel and inhumane’ realities of kids’ reality shows.
Gupte, who wrote Taare Zameen Par and directed Stanley Ka Dabba, told DNA that he has “been crying (himself) hoarse on the issue of children being forced to participate in reality shows for years. But to simply blame parents’ ambitions for this cruel and inhuman practice is absurd. Parents, who pressurise their children to excel on reality shows, are as much victims of a system that fosters and encourages unrealistic ambitions, as the other perpetrators of this criminal treatment of children.”
Barbaric working conditions
The filmmaker shared in detail how a day in the life of a child contestant looks. “They are brought from distant towns to Mumbai and huddled into cheap hotels with their parents. Every morning, they have to travel to the TV studio for rehearsals. These kids are wrenched away from all normal activities and are thrown into a single-minded devotion to lending their voices to these reality shows. They are made to shoot for countless hours, sometimes in humid non-airconditioned rooms. It’s barbaric,” he said.
Traumatised for life
In one particularly wrenching situation, Amole said a “little, blind boy had made it to the finals of a singing contest. Throughout the day he was rehearsing under gruelling circumstances for his song and finally at 1 am when he was to record, he lost his voice. The child was traumatised for life.”
This defeat ‘shattered’ him, he said, and kids who suffer defeat like this “feel as though they’ve fallen into a deep dark hole.”
Amole said he makes it a point to put the children first on his sets. “The kids shoot when they want to,” he said. “There is no pressure on them. I’ve seen what happens to these children during long hours of shooting. Once a two-year-old child was shooting a Maggi noodles ad which I was directing. It was late in the night and the shooting was halted because the child was asleep. I saw the mother hissing and prodding the child to wake up. I went up to the mother and told her to please stop, that we will hold the shooting until the child is ready, even cancel it.”
Demanding the system be changed, he said, “Everyone is a victim including the parents. The government needs to enforce laws against children being made to work long hours. When I was the chairperson of the Children’s Film Society, I pushed for a law preventing children from being made to shoot for more than five-and-a-half hours. That law is now existent. The law says children cannot shoot for more than five-and-a-half hours for TV serials or films. But how many people follow this law? More needs to be done to ensure they are comfortable. When I was shooting in Madh Island for Sniff, my child-hero stayed there at a hotel with his mother, while all of us travelled back to the mainland every day. The work-load for children has to be decided by the people who make them work. No law can dictate the individual conscience.”
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