Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Child Is The father of a (Great) Film Maker"

After a long long time last Sunday I spent the whole day at home. Saw four films back to back. All were great but two of them – A.I. & Oliver! touched my heart. My intention behind seeing these two films was something more than just seeing another film on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I wanted to see and learn how the character of a kid is being portrayed or explored as protagonists in such films. But once the movies started playing on my DVD Player, I forgot what I wanted to see or make a note of it and was completely lost in the fairytale-ish story telling. One was a period based story and other a Sci-fi fairy tale but both of them had the soul and innocence in place. Stories with heart I must say.

The minute detailing of the sets, the music, and wonderful cinematography, everything takes a backseat and compliment the wonderful performances of the teenage protagonists. The kids perform so well that you totally forget about the efforts of the directors, which actually propelled the performances to another level. Directing kids is fun but it takes very little to turn all the fun into a nightmarish experience.

Meri Kahani

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to work with a Kid’s TV Channel Network, where I got many chances to direct children. Its sheer pleasure to work with kids who are experienced, but it’s a real pain when some non-actor kid surprises you with a brilliant take and then spoils everything by looking at you within a fraction of a mili-second (which spoils the whole take) after completing his/her lines for your approval. You can’t even shout at a 5 year old looking at you with those curious eyes. Don’t even try telling them s/he has spoilt the whole thing because of that, just tell them what s/he shouldn’t repeat in the next take and get ready for a next take.

Re-takes again is a pain, most of the time they are shaken when you tell them you going to need another take, some of them get so nervous that the following takes will become a series of disasters. Keep them interested, keep them motivated, keep them cheerful and never make them realize their last take was pathetic. Long shooting hours are again a pain while working with kids, there were a couple of late night shoots, which were painful for both, us as well as the kids.

But at the end of the day its real fun and trust me the kids will teach you a lot of things which they never teach you in Film Schools. Then there are fringe benefits- listening to their (nonsense) stories, (horribly boring) jokes and have lots of fun playing with them to keep them occupied and interested.

Confession - I distinctly remember this Sardar ji kid from Delhi who was all of 5 but gave me a lecture on SMS driven contests and how we channel-wallahs rob the viewers with such contests (he himself was a contest winner). I asked him who taught him all that, my guess was right; it was his father the Senior Surd, who was also present on the sets. I made sure the production guys kept him away, while I was shooting with his son.(the excuse I made was- kids get conscious with their parents around, the actual reason- I wanted to settle scores with the guy who is bhadkaao-ing his innocent son to not to send SMSes, come on Channel Kamayega Nahin Toh…Meri Salary Kahaan Se Aayegi…huh).

Anyway I wanted to talk about something else (rather than sharing my silly stories).

While seeing all these films I realized not every director can direct kids, but the ones who have done it and done it tastefully are actually the best of the lot. It’s not about the abilities of the director but his/her sensibilities and understanding which are put on a test while doing such films. Think about the best films with kids and their directors-

Steven Spielberg and the way he directs kids is simply brilliant, E.T., Close Encounters of The Third Kind, Jurassic Park Trilogy, A.I. and many other films where even if kids are not the central character Spielberg captures them so wonderfully that his films simply become study material.

Gulzar Sahab and his films like Parichay and Kitaab. He is the man who can write Chaddi Pehen Ke Phool Khila Hai and Dil Dhoondhta Hai Phir Wahi Fursat Ke Raat Din with the same ease.

Majid Majidi - Children of heaven, Color Of Paradise and many others.

Shekhar Kapur – The way he directed kids in Maasoom, Mr.India & Bandit Queen.

Vishal Bharadwaj - Makdee and Blue Umbrella.

Nagesh Kukunoor - Rockford.

Last but not the least Aamir - Taare Zameen Par.

I strongly feel, the way these film makers have depicted a child’s story in an adult world and have achieved it so wonderfully that it is worth studying and learning. Their understanding of kids psyche is marvelous, which proves their mastery when it comes to understand and picturise human psyche. These are the things, which make them better and greater film makers even when they are not working with kids or working on a subject which sometimes can be inappropriate for kids…

I saw glimpses of Slumdog Millionaire and was amazed to see the way Danny Boyle has used the kids in his film. The stunts, the chase, the acting...everything is just superb...waiting eagerly for it's release in India...

(Wanna write more will continue some other time...may be)


santasizing...Fantasizing said...

ohh i totally and completely agree with you for all these geniuses of people for having made such brilliant movies..and making the little children enact things so well:)and thats what makes these people stand out from the rest of the crowd:)kudos to them:)

abhishek said...

u knw AI was initially kubrick's project but then he died so spielberg had to step in. I loved the performance of bale in 'empire of the sun'. As a child he showed what acting prowess he possessed.

Toonfactory said...

@ Richa - Thanks...yep indeed that's what make them stand out from the 'crowd'....

@ Abhishek - A.I. was Kubrick's brain child based on a short story - "Supertoys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss...and he wanted to produce it with Spielberg as its director...They were working on it since 1984 and Spielberg so loved Kubrick's vision that he decided to be the producer with Kubrick directing the film. They kept on discussing the story and Kubrick passed away, this is when Kubrick's widow messeged SS - ' This movie can only be made, if you direct it...' SS planned the whole thing with his usual gang of geniuses - John Williams for music, Michael Kahn as Editor, Janusz Kaminski as DOP, Stan Winston for Robotics and other effects and did the film..
(Gonna write a separate post on Child Prodigies and the Directors soon, How can we forget Martin Scorsese and the way he directed Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver)

Mama - Mia said...


a very interesting read indeed. i am always amazed at how directors get such small kids to act so natural. which in itself is a paradox! :D

hamaare bacche ko bhi chance do saar!! :p



Banno said...


Yes, working with kids is quite a challenge. And how right you are when you describe playing games with them and listening to their boring jokes as a part of the challenge. :-)

Good fun, reading this. Reminded me of my shoot with kids during the making of my film 'Lilkee'. Working with kids you know is another story altogether with its own set of do's and don'ts.

Toonfactory said...

@ Abha - Aapkey Bachche Ne Jis Din Humein Chance Diya...Humari lottery nikal gayi samjho...never seen souch a cute kid who is not at all camera shy (thanks to the non-stop camera training)

@ Banno - Where, how and when can I see - Lilkee (have been to ur lilkee blog many times) wanna see it...

Gauri Mathur said...

Hey that's a sweet post,specially children part:):)
And yes these director's have really done great job wid kids.
Keep Empowering!:-)

Trinaa said...

kidzzzzzz!! i often wonder y i wasnt asked to work 4 any ad or muvi as a child..m such a natural actress! :P

Arunima said...

It ws nice 2 read ur experience.

Unknown said...

wow... working with kids must be fun! :) liked all yr silly stories :D haven't seen A.I. yet... guess i shd see it now!

Toonfactory said...

@ Gauri - Thanks.

@ Trinaa - Don't worry U still look like a kid, will cast U for sure the day I am making a Baal-Film

@ Arunima - Thanks...

@ Dubu - Its real fun to work with the kids...

Material Girl said...

Purrr-etty cool :)
Keep writing!

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