Amole Gupte hates the word kids. “I have an allergy to that word. I prefer to call them children. In the attitude itself the adult world doesn’t know how to respect children that’s the starting point for me.” Amole was the brain behind Taare Zameen Par before he handed the reigns of the film to Aamir Khan. He went on to make films like Stanley ka Dabba, Hawaa Hawaai, and Sniff!!! He says, “My comfort zone is children. I have seen they are brutally honest and transparent, therefore I can retain my sanity in their world. In the adult world, people have huge egos. With children, I manage to create content with their help. It’s not a one-way street. It’s a two-way workshop mode. We have never used a single school day for our activity. And what comes out of our activities is the film. They have kept me sane. The children’s world and the cinema world; not Bollywood. I try to bring out the issues I have. Sadly, the adult world doesn’t want to pay attention to it.”
Here the filmmaker-actor talks about the world that he feels comfortable in, and why Hindi cinema hasn’t been able to do justice to them.
You said you had lot of issues with the way children are dealt with…
I have issues about respecting children, about the communication system, about listening to them. The entire adult world seems to be such a one-way street, the anguish of the child doesn’t reach their ears. So you have to bring it out, you have to talk about the educational system, the financial system. You have to talk about inequality. There are so many things that need to be brought out, it can’t follow the ridiculous entertainment programme, as it is made out to be.
What do you think about reality shows that focus on kids?
I think some children have the talent and they need a platform. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it should not be burlesque. Imagine a little girl or boy dancing in that way or creating laughter which is not tasteful for that age. You have to be careful of their age, or you can spoil their childhood by creating these little geniuses who are burlesque to watch. Many shows the adult judges and people who are running the show they seem to be praising the ability and quality that the kids are dancing like a grown up man or woman. They don’t realise ke usko time hai abhi. Let them grow, let them become trees from plants. We just need to see to it that the pace doesn’t become awful.
There doesn’t seem to be enough cinema for children…
Sniff !!! was taken off the theatre in a week, there was no audience because it wasn’t promoted well. Nobody actually gave it value. There seems to be an audience waiting somewhere that goes to see films like Harry Potter and Jungle Book, but they are not aware that an Indian film was made. I actually have many people coming and asking me when is the film coming. There was no promotion, the theatres didn’t support it neither did the distributers. I can’t blame the audience because it did not reach them. The same audience received Stanley Ka Dabba and Hawa Hawaai very well. So, for such movies its about the level of awareness created and the faith that the studio puts behind children’s content. Everytime you don’t get lucky and get an Aamir Khan in your film to get more eyeballs. People didn’t know any actor in Harry Potter, Jungle Book is an animation film, but there were so many people who lapped it up. That kind of awareness and marketing nobody is talking about. People only wake up on November 14 and talk about it. That’s the unfortunate place I am in because I am fully wedded to children’s cause, but it is a fight for me to survive.
Do you think our industry doesn’t take the children audience very seriously?
Of course. Not just in Hollywood, even in Europe, children’s films do more business than movies made for adults. That happens because for films made for adults only that age group goes to the theatres, whereas for the films for children, the entire family sees it. The eyeballs multiply. That’s the reason they make it an event. Here you go to a U/A film with little kids, there will be an item song in it, it’ll have sex comedy…
Do you keep in touch with the children you work with?
Of course. Khushmeet (Gill from Sniff!!!) has been with me since Stanley Ka Dabba. I think about what can I do for a child like that so then I give him a cycle as a birthday present.
Your son Partho has stayed away from films or ads…
After Stanley Ka Dabba and Hawa Hawaai, you can imagine the endorsements and offers that must’ve didn’t take a single one because we shoot only on a Saturday. Will they do it? No, because they don’t plan for children. Because I am his parent I can control that. But I am not Darsheel’s (Safary’s) father or Khushmeet’s father, so I can’t control their movements. I can only advise the parents. I can only tell them to not take their children out of the system, else he or she will lose their childhood. But they may or may not listen, so it’s difficult.