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Nagesh Kukunoor speaks to Harshikaa Udasi about why he is wary of stereotyping, what a children’s film should mean and (though the consequences are completely debatable) why Salman Khan is, and in ‘our time’ Amitabh Bachchan was, a kids’ hero
We are happy to hear that you’ve had a good run with your Dhanak this year. Hope we will get to see some more children’s films from you (and soon!)
Thank you! Dhanak sure has had a tremendous response. It had no hero to support it. Well, the only one that was there was never really there! It was about two children in a world which is still innocent. It was about hope and life. And it worked! Putting all this in context, it’s really gratifying. Internationally too, it has got a lot of recognition. We managed to take it to 45 international film festivals. At the Berlin Film Festival, it won the Grand Prix for Best Feature in the Generation KPlus section for children, as well as a Special Mention of the Children’s Jury in the same section.
That’s heartwarming! So this means you are giving our children something as interesting soon enough, right?
Errr, well, I can’t repeat myself in two consecutive films. So, much as children have enjoyed it, I will wait at least for one more film to make a similar one! My thing is that if people can predict what my style of filmmaking is or what my subjects are going to be, it’s going to be very traumatic for me. I can't handle being stereotyped.
Alright, we will be patient. Can you tell us what makes a good children’s film that stays true to their sensibilities?
To be honest, I don’t make a children’s film or an adults’ films consciously. I solely make films that tell stories. The protagonists may be children sometimes and then we have to adapt their language and their thoughts in the film. Each child’s character is then etched out – Chotu in Dhanak was a smart Alec while Pari is quintessentially sweet. See, every filmmaker has his or her own set of sensibilities. For me, the people have to be real, even though they are doing completely unreal things. I make real fiction. Even if it sounds like an oxymoron, that’s what it is! Do you remember the sandstorm sequence in Dhanak. It was larger-than-life; that’s me.
What do you think of children’s cinema in India?
It is very interesting to note that it never really developed as a genre. Guess we’ve been too busy harping on ‘family entertainment’ whatever the definition of that is. Remember we grew up on Amitabh Bachchan films as children. Ask any child in the US who his or her hero is and they will never mention Tom Cruise or whoever. Ask in India and the answer will be Salman now, I think. The difference is that children out there are not allowed to watch films for adults. Films are made dedicatedly for them.
In India, the films that were and are made for children horrifically talk down to them. The tone is sort of like you are lowly beings and we need to dumb things down for you. No! Children are very senstitive and emotionally intelligent. They get the message far better than adults. The day we understand that, the quality of children's films will be something else altogether.
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