Monday, 5 December 2016

‘Gauru – Journey of Courage’ – a must watch movie for every child

Going by the great response received by the audience for the opening film ‘Gauru – Journey of Courage’ screened during the inaugural of the National Children’s Film Festival, held in Jaipur recently, we are in talks with multiple distributors across the country to have the movie get a theatrical release.

Produced by Children Film Society, India (CFSI) and directed by Ramkishan Nandram Choyal, Gauru is a must watch film for every child in India as it effectively brings out the essence of deep bonding between a child and his grandmother. It’s a story of how a 13-year-old shepherd boy fulfils his grandmother’s last wish to visit her native place as she has never been there after marriage.
Children watching this film will surely connect with the character of Gauru and his love for his grandmother. Gauru is also close to my heart. I could visualize myself as Gauru, the protagonist in the movie, as even I shared a similar rapport with my grandmother.

Having said so much about Gauru, I also wish to share with you why I was convinced with Choyal about the making of Gauru, his directorial debut. While assisting on Kaphal, another offering from CFSI, Choyal narrated the script of Gauru to me. I felt the story was very impactful and I was bowled by his detailed narration, which was effective and melodramatic.

The underlying theme of the movie, which highlights the endeavour of a young boy to fulfil his grandmother’s wish who lies on her deathbed, connected with me instantly. I could relate to the rapport I had with my grandmother and had shared similar experiences with her. I was also nostalgic because it is my grandmom who introduced the magic of the movies to me. I recall watching my first movie with her as we both travelled all the way from our village to the district head quarter.
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The other aspect which touched me deeply is Gauru‘s love for animals. Being born in the family of shepherds, who are called Raikas in Rajasthan, his love for sheep and how tends to them has been showcased brilliantly. Children, generally, have an innate connection with animals and exhibit genuine love for the four-legged.

The dramatization of the young boy’s journey to reach his grandmother’s village to fulfil her last wish against all odds, his love for animals and the ecosystem he is entwined with, the depiction of life and relationships in the hinterlands of India – all these aspects made me go ahead with the project and bring this beautiful subject out on the screens. What’s more, Gauru also brings with it a positive and hopeful message that dreams can be fulfilled and will have a positive impact in the minds of children. And Ritvik Sahore has done a commendable job as Gauru in the movie!

When Gauru hits the screens during the summer vacation in April 2017, I want every child to walk in
to the theatres along with their parents and enjoy the movie!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Jaipur children unleash their creative talent through Open Forums and Workshops at NCFF

It was a day to remember, not only for me, but for some of the best, young creative talents of Jaipur.

Curtains came down on the National Children’s Film Festival (NCFF) with a fitting finale with a bunch of enthusiastic and creative children, who participated in the film making workshop, making a 1.5-minute film ‘My Friend’.

The Jawahar Kala Kendra, which was full of life with children from various schools taking part in the Open Forums, Workshops and Kids Carnival for the last three days, proved that, cinema, no doubt, is a powerful medium through which we can effectively inculcate family values among children and make them aware of social issues.

The Open Forum on the third day of NCFF, which had an august team of speakers, deliberated on the theme “How has the various media and communication platforms covered various issues related to children? What more and different things can be done in this direction.”

The observations and discussions by eminent panelists/speakers in the Forum were very interesting.
Prof. Dr. Sandeep Sancheti, President, Manipal University, Jaipur stressed on the need for enhancing and promoting the thought processes and creative talent of children. Anshu Harsh, Founder of Rajasthan International Film Festival made an important observation that children of today are aware of the good and the bad, and the media should keep this in mind.

Kalyansinh Kothari, Secretary General, Lok Samvad Sansthan felt that it’s the responsibility of all of us to bring about a change in the society while the media just highlights the need for a particular change. Rajendra Bora, Former Chief of Dainik Bhaskar, said that media is an effective medium to educate children, but it also depends on how we make use of it.

Manan Suman Chaturvedi, Chairperson, Children’s Commission, Rajasthan Government; Daksh Garg, Founder, Blabworld; Prof. Ujjwal K Chowdhury, Media & Education Consultant; Former Dean, Symbiosis & Amity Universities; Prof. Avinash Tripathy, film journalist including myself were present at the Open Forum.

Earlier during the day, noted film producer Ashok Kaul conducted a film making workshop for children, where he taught them the tricks of film making. He also introduced them to cinematography, direction, handling the camera and even acting skills. It was a wonderful sight to see those curious children learn the art of film making.

CFSI will edit this short film and showcase them at the National and International Children’s Film Festivals in the future.  Looking at the success of both the editions of NCFF, I am eagerly looking forward to hold the children’s film festival at district-level.

The three-day National Children’s Film Festival, held in the Pink City of Jaipur, has further strengthened our resolve to reach out to more and more children in different states and districts through children’s films and to bring out their creative talent in the art of film making.

I take this opportunity to thank my colleagues at CSFI and the officials of Government of Rajasthan, who, in the last few months, worked day and night and supported us in making this film festival a grand success.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Children exhibit joy and surprise, indulge in knowledge-sharing on the second day of NCFF 2016

This time again, the National Children’s Film Festival (NCFF) proved that the audio-visual medium has a tremendous impact on children. The second edition of NCFF, being held in the pink city of Jaipur, is witnessing attendance of children to packed houses at all 10 theatres across the city, where Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI) is screening 40 children’s movies.

In addition to screening movies, CFSI has also organised Open Forums, Workshops and Kids carnival for children at the Jawahar Kala Kendra, on all the three days.

As part of this, for the first time, I had the privilege of interacting with child achievers in the Open Forum on the theme “Child Achievers: Sharing their journey, and their views on children in films and media.”

These children, in the age group of 8 to 15, had achieved successes in their own might and were winners of several International and National awards. They shared their experience and successes with the children audience and their parents present at the Open Forum

Day 2: CFSI chairperson Mukesh Khanna, CEO Dr Shravan Kumar with the young celebrities from Jaipur at our open forum

It’s very interesting to know more about these young achievers. Manan Sood, also known as the ‘Google Boy’ surprised everyone with his general knowledge. This six-year old feels that cartoon films, among children films, have an impact on children.

Nine-year old writer-dancer Lachi Prajapati is a bundle of talent. Generally known as the ‘Golden Girl’ she says she remembers 15 chapters of Srimad Bhagwadgita. She has also been dancing since she was 2.5 years old. This vibrant, young talent is also a poet and has also written a lot on the Beti Bachao Campaign. At the young age of 9, she has also written a book titled ‘Sit a While With Me’.
One could not take their eyes off from the mesmerising Kathak dance performance by Jayati Mukherjee who belongs to the Jaipur Gharana.

Similar to Manan Sood, Jyotika Chatnani too could tell the capitals of many countries and of all the states in India with ease. She also remembered the names of all the presidents of India.
Another talented achiever Ratika Sharma introduced her scientific talent to the audience. She also spoke about a Scientific project, which could give relief to states like Rajasthan from water-scarcity.

The children also participated in the Animation Workshop conducted by noted international and Indian award-winning animation filmmaker Dhvani Desai. The curious children listened in rapt attention when Desai explained to them about the history of animation and the various techniques of animation including the 2-D and 3-D. Later, the children were also treated to an animation film.

The success of our film festival and its programmes stand testimony to our efforts to nurture the creativity among these bright and talented children.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Second edition of NCFF opened to a colourful start in the pink city of Jaipur

The Birla Auditorium in the Pink City of Jaipur was decorated like a colourful bride on November 14. I was amazed to see the entire auditorium abuzz with laughter, cheer and hoots as the children expressed joy in seeing their favourite film heroes participate in the inaugural ceremony of the second edition of the National Children’s Film Festival (NCFF) in Jaipur.
Yes, it was a day to remember for me as well thousands of children from various schools across Jaipur and for the officials of Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI) and officials of Government of Rajasthan as well.
Jointly organised by CFSI and Government of Rajasthan, the three-day National Children’s Film Festival opened to a colourful start with the presence of noted Bollywood stars Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Ila Arun, Darsheel Safary, Tisca Chopra and Faisal Khan.
Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore, CFSI Chairperson Mukesh Khanna, Ad Guru Piyush Pandey and senior officials of Rajasthan Government were also present to kick start the event.
Actor Irrfan Khan, who recalled his childhood and how he became an actor, called on the children to 'keep dreaming', and said, "dreams come true when they are real."

MoS Rajyavardhan Rathore, CFSI Chairperson Mukesh Khanna, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Ila Arun, Piyush Pandey and Ramkishan Choyal  

Khan said that his interest in education became serious when he realised which was the subject he liked the most - that's Drama. “One should understand the calling from within. You should listen to the voice that comes from within and only then your journey in the chosen field becomes successful,” he informed.
Actor Anil Kapoor said that making children's films is even more challenging in today's times as children are exposed to technology and the digital medium. “They know so much about this creative art of film making. With advancement in digital technology, children are involved in making short films and documentaries. This should continue,” he said.
Kapoor also expressed happiness on workshops and open forums being organised at this festival. “Let's make the festival theme 'Make in India' become a reality by making quality films for children and by children,” he said.
Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, who was very supportive in enabling us hold the second edition of NCFF at Jaipur, called on the children to enjoy themselves for three days and unleash their creativity in the days to come.
It was a real treat to one’s eyes to see thousands of children, accompanied by their respective teachers, had arrived in groups to witness the inaugural ceremony. The crowded auditorium resonated with laughter, cheer and screams during the various cultural programmes.
Graceful Bihu Dance

The inaugural ceremony saw some colourful performances including a vibrant dance performance by youngsters from the Terrence Dance Troupe, a colourful Bihu dance, Puppetry Show, a ventriloquism act etc. 
CFSI’s offering ‘Gauru’, directed by Ramkishan Choyal, who is also from Rajasthan was screened as the opening film of the festival after the inaugural ceremony at the auditorium. Gauru holds a special place in the hearts of the audience as the entire film is also shot in Rajasthan.
The sprawling lawns of the Birla Auditorium was decorated with colourful buntings while Rajasthani Folk dancers and musicians welcomed the guests at the entrance. The children enjoyed the movement of a joker and a man dressed as Charlie Chaplin in and out of the auditorium. In all, the three-day film festival kicked off to a colourful start.
The Workshops, Open Forums and the Kids Carnival at Jawahar Kala Kendra also drew huge crowd.
The Open Forum, with the theme, "Children's Films: The Indian Experience, Challenges, Possibilities" saw the participation of children, parents as well as teachers.
With Prof. Ujjwal K Chowdhury, Media & Education Consultant, Former Dean, Symbiois & Amity Universities moderating the Forum, the panel was chaired by CFSI Chairman Mukesh Khanna;  Abhishek Ray, Music Director, I Am Kalaam; Cyrus Dastur, Founder, Shamiana Short Film Movement and Avinash Tripathy, Jury, Rajasthan International Film Festival and me.
In all, it was an event to remember for children of Jaipur, who will get to see some of the best children’s movies during the three-day film festival.

Friday, 11 November 2016

All roads leading to National Children’s Film Festival 2016 in Jaipur

Just two more days to go. The countdown has begun for the second edition of National Children’s Film Festival, to be held in Jaipur.

In the first edition of the NCFF, my main aim was to promote film making for children. When I was the festival director for the previous film festival, The Golden Elephant, to curate a section of children’s film made in India, I saw shortage of films for children. I was scouting for good films, but the selection committee was not able to zero in on good numbers to make a separate India section at the festival. That gave me a reason to ponder whether we have that culture in the country where quality films are being made for children in the market.

The introspection also led to the fact that CFSI being the children’s film making organisation, also has the mandate to foster this kind of culture among film makers in the country.  So, we conceptualized the NCFF, the first edition of which was held in Delhi in 2014, which received a good response.

Celebration and colour at our first National Children's Film Festival 2014 in Delhi

The festival had a carnival type of ambience and children enjoyed the movies, after which the cast and crew also did a workshop with them. Many film makers also participated and parents of the children audience were also very happy with the whole experience. So, with the first edition, we set the tempo both for the children audience and their parents to make them attracted towards this exclusive content for children through these Children’s films as well as to push the community of film makers to make more films as well as utilise this platform to showcase their films and get an opportunity to interact with the audience.

The first edition of the festival had ‘Swachta’ as its theme with environmental concerns at the forefront. We are taking that moment forward in the second edition too. As we had decided that this festival should be a traveling festival and reach to the children audience and film makers both, we decided to choose Jaipur, which has a very vibrant culture and the city is also emerging as a film destination.

Jaipur is a good venue to host children’s films and towards that objective we invited entries and got very good response and we have selected around 40 films. And this time, we have the support of the state government in giving us 10 theatres across the city including multiplexes and stand-alone cinemas.

In the first edition, we screened movies in only three theatres in Delhi. We want the children to have a theatrical experience, which is the main goal for us in spreading the children’s films movement. We should have children’s films playing in the theatres, where children can walk in for free with their parents and have that great experience.

We are looking forward to around 50,000 school children participate in the film festival from Nov 14 to 16. CFSI is also holding film making workshops and open forums on the side lines of the film festival.

Come, enjoy the films and have fun!

Friday, 4 November 2016

An invitation to the 2nd National Children's Film Festival in Jaipur

The festive season marks the beginning of all things new and I feel privileged to announce the 2nd National Children’s Film Festival. Yes, it’s time for much cheer, joy and celebration.

Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI) is organising the second edition of National Children’s Film Festival from November 14 to 16 this year in Jaipur.

After successfully organizing the first edition of the Fest in Delhi in 2014, we are looking forward to screening some quality films for children and in turn make them a part of the process of film making through workshops and screenings.

The National Children’s Film Festival is a traveling Fest. As we are engaged in providing value-based entertainment to children through the powerful medium of films, we want to reach out to different states in each edition and promote films that provide healthy and wholesome entertainment for children to broaden their perspective and also encourage them to get involved in the art of film making and bring out their hidden talent.

Children enjoying themselves at our 19th Edition of the Golden Elephant

At CFSI, our aim is to foster the culture of making films and through these film Fests we want to provide a platform for children as well as film makers.

During the earlier editions of International Children’s Film Fest, we had a separate section inviting entries from Indian film makers. We realized that not only the number of entries was low from India, but we also saw that the entries lacked quality films that could be curated. They could not compete with other movies. Hence, we had to change the category from India section to Asia section.

Nurturing their creativity and exposing the children coming from various parts of India to a value based entertainment through CFSI movies was the thought behind conceiving the National Children’s Film Fest two years back. As the director of the film Fest, I am happy to see film makers as well as children showing interest in films made for and of them.

However, nothing would be as good as films made by children. Towards this objective, I curated a section called “Little Directors” in the 18th Golden Elephant held on November 14, 2013, which was a huge success with 123 entries. The section went truly international in the 19th edition of Golden Elephant with over 200 entries from 8 countries. It’s now my endeavour to make every child into a Little Director, telling their own stories through this wonderful medium of films. The idea behind NCFF is to achieve this goal.

I introduced the concept of Little Directors, because I have always believed that children with their boundless imagination have a huge potential to make communications. Films as a medium has a huge potential to impact masses. And what can be a better way to train our future generation who could be the harbingers of a constructive change in the society.

During the first edition of the National Children’s Film Festival, held in Delhi, we screened films such as Seema Desai’s Pappu Ki Pugdandi, Shortcut Safari, The Goal, Mahek Mirza, Krish Trish and Baltiboy and Ek Ajooba. The 1st NCFF 2014 had also incorporated `Swachhata’ as its central theme taking the “Swachha Bharat” initiative of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to the future citizens of India i.e. children.

I extend a warm invitation to not only children, but their parents and teachers as well to block their dates in November to be a part of our National Children’s Film Festival in Jaipur.

And, what better day to kick-start the Fest on November 14 – Children’s Day it is!!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

‘Little Directors’ to carve their future through film-making

A dream concept shared by me at the Impact Evaluation Workshop of Entertainment-Education and Mass Media Behavior Change Campaigns held at Mexico in May 2016 is bearing fruits in India.

After taking over as the CEO of Children's Film Society, India (CFSI), I was instrumental in taking filmmaking to the doors of schools and children from marginalised sections so as to bring about a behavioural change in these youngsters.

The Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) delivered an impact evaluation workshop in Mexico City, Mexico, aligning researchers, practitioners and producers from entertainment hubs including Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood to design and evaluate behavior change campaigns under a new DIME program: Entertainment Education.

I was one of the speakers at the workshop in Mexico. My presentation on the concept of Little Directors and bringing children from the marginalised sections to the mainstream through creativity, which in turn impacts their behavioural pattern through communication, received appreciation and encouragement from delegates representing renowned universities from different parts of the world as well as executives from the Impact Evaluation wing of World Bank.

When the same concept was introduced in Patna recently, my dreams got wings. It was an experience worth remembering for children of various schools as they laughed, clapped and jumped in ecstasy when they watched a series of children films at the three-day Children’s Film Festival organised by CFSI and Vishwa Samvad Kendra Patna from September 7 to 9. I am working on taking this concept to more number of villages across Bihar in the days to come.    

Hundreds of children from various schools in Patna enjoyed movies such as ‘Gopi Gawaiyaa Bagha Bajaiyaa’ by Shilpa Ranade, ‘Ek Tha Bhujang’ directed by Mohinder Pratap Singh, Rajan Khosla’s ‘GATTU’, ‘Kaphal’ directed by Batul Mukhtiyar, ‘Pappu Ki Pagdandi’ directed by Seema Desai, ‘Krish, Trish & Batliboy’ directed by Munjal Shroff and ‘Tilakraj Shetty’. A special screening was organised for the children of Rainbow Homes orphanage apart from the regular screenings.

Through these film shows, I try to ignite the creativity of children by exposing them to entertainment films made for them from all across the world. Through the Little Directors concept, we are looking forward to teach film-making to children under the brand.

The interaction with more than 100 students of Rainbow Foundation and the experience in conducting this workshop was worthwhile and fruitful. These children are from the marginalised sections of the society; have either been orphaned or disowned by their parents. I was surprised to see that these children bonded positively with the organisers and showed keen interest in unleashing their creativity. We realised that these children can seriously take up creative art forms like film making to shape their future.

It was very encouraging for us to see that children outside the normal school system also showed interest in creativity. What was even more surprising was that 80 per cent of the children from Rainbow Foundation were girls, who were keen to know more about the Little Directors, which spoke about young children making films and winning awards at the international platform.

CFSI will soon start holding workshops for children of Bihar to impart the knowledge of this art form.
We will conduct a five-day workshop under the Little Directors concept on film making in various villages in Bihar. Children in groups will make theme-based films, which will be screened in the respective villages. The World Bank Impact Evaluation team will evaluate the behavioural change and the impact movie making has had on these children after six months. Another evaluation will be carried out after the next few months to again assess impact it would have had on the lives of these children.

We are hopeful that there’ll be a huge participation in this exercise to bring out the creativity of these children.

Films for children have a message and huge impact on the growth of a child. It's a medium that helps develop learning of a child through an audio-visual mechanism. There is huge audience for children movies in the country. Filmmaking as a medium helps cultivate the creativity of a young child.

To sum it up, I feel that this concept is the next level of making a real-time change in the personality development as well as career development of children.

- Dr. Shravan Kumar, CEO, Children's Film Society, India