Nandita Das: I'll always support kids' films
Actor, activist, filmmaker Nandita Das is currently the chairperson of the Children's Film Society of India (CFSI).
The CFSI, in collaboration with the Government of Andhra Pradesh, conducted the 17th edition of the International Children's Film Festival of India at Hyderabad in November.
In an interview with Radhika Rajamani, the actress talks about the festival, her role as the chairperson of the organisation and the changes she has initiated with it.
Are you happy with the response and co-operation that Children's Film Festival has got?
I'm very happy with the response. The feedback from both adults and children has been overwhelming. When I asked the kids which film they liked, they said they liked all the films. Most of them would have never come out of their villages or little towns.
You have a child from Dadra Nagar Haveli meeting a child from Srinagar or Baramulla and you have an Andaman Nicobar kid meeting an Arunachal Pradesh kid or one from Kerala. I think that's the lovely part of the whole thing. They are seeing films from around the world, getting introduced to other ways of living and cultures.
There is contact through the workshops and open forums which have gone on well. All these different activities which make a more holistic festival have been good.
Image: Nandita Das with kids at the film festival
'I'm trying to involve more people from various fields'
The festival has been held nine times in Hyderabad. Do you feel it's time for some changes in the festival format?
I personally wanted it to be a travelling festival. I am not against Andhra Pradesh; Hyderabad has been a great venue and it's easier for us in Hyderabad as there is a certain amount of energy and money that people have put in. It's more difficult to do it elsewhere, but the country is large and varied and many parts are neglected.
Every two years if the festival goes to a different state, they will be able to do it. Wherever there are fewer infrastructures, it will motivate them to increase it. At some level I was interested in that. Also, in our country even if 500 kids come, it's a very small number.
So we can come to Hyderabad, but we must work out a smaller package and take it all around the country.
Then there are lots of copyright issues. Many films are new and they don't want to give DVDs, they don't want to show it elsewhere other than the festival. There is a lot of demand for films which people have watched. Maybe we could ask for the rights of the older films and sell the DVDs and it could become a little section. There was a new location (the crafts village of Shilparamam) too.
Image: Nandita Das
'Economics interferes with arts'
Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries, make good children's films. China also makes good films now. Why does India lag behind?
Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and China make gorgeous films. We have such a huge young population. There's a market, and there's a demand. But there's one TV in a home and whatever the father or mother watches, the child watches that. I think this family film-watching and general entertainment almost pushes out children's films. That's one reason.
Secondly, economics interferes with art. That's why we had this section in the festival focusing on China, and a package of Chinese films--to learn from them, to see how their government is so involved, even if they control it yet they bring in the best masters to be part of it.
The chairman of their Children's Film Federation is one of the best directors of children's films, Li Quan Kian. They take so much interest. They came all the way to India with a 17-member delegation. Many of them paid their own way. You need filmmakers who have the will to do these kinds of films.
Image: Nandita Das
'I'll be quite happy to finish my term in August'
What initiatives have you taken for CFSI?
Primarily to put certain systems in place. We procure basic quality films, good scripts and see how twe can attract good directors to work with us.
We used to have only 35 mm films. Now with the whole world going digital, we can't ignore the children's films.
Also I want to create to larger group of people who can become friends of CFSI. These people may not be employees of CFSI but you can draw upon your expertise and time as and when required.
I'm trying to involve more people from various fields like filmmakers, writers, educators, animators because CFSI has this reputation of being a boring government organisation where nothing really happens.
In the Executive Council we have Gulzar Saab Vishal Bharadwaj, Pooja Shetty, Mohan Agashe so that it can be a vibrant body. Because the Society is autonomous, a lot of the decisions can be taken at the EC stage, you don't need to go to the ministry. You need to have an outspoken executive council that really cares about children's cinema.
I've been at it for two years and will be quite happy to finish my term in August 2012.
Will you accept an extension?
I don't want it. Whatever I could do, there's no end to it. I will always be a supporter of CFSI and children's films.
Image: Nandita Das