Why are so few films being made for children? This was one of the questions thrown at GuIzar during an interview session at Jashn-e-Bachpan festival for children. And then, why is it that kids just don't catch the fancy of scriptwriters or lyricists?
" It's not that writers don't love kids. To identify with children, you have to put yourself in their place and get involved with them. This doesn't happen as often as it does with adults. And it is because of this lack of identification that so few films are being made" or fewer pieces of lyrics written for kids," explained Gulzar, the writer-lyricist, who once told us that he enjoyed discussing his work for children more than the "big people" stuff.
Gulzar himself hasn't written children's dramas, though a collection of his short stories was adapted and brought together by Salim Arif. However, he has a sizeable body of work relating to children in the form of poetry and television shows. Over the years, Gulzar has turned into a kind of specialist on the subject of kids. And though he is the first to admit that he is by no means an expert on children, there is no faulting some of his astute observations that come from years of studying children from close quarters. Gulzar himself experienced an early loss of innocence, as he was still a boy during the traumatic years of Partition.
Gulzar has recently been involved in UNICEF's Hamari Meena project. He has also Written Kauwanama and Kaptaan Chacha, a book on Republic Day. And of course, there are the ever-popular Karadi Tales cassette that brings together fables from popular literature. In Gulzar's world of children, the climate is clean. The earth is fresh and brown, the air fresh and energy-laden. It's when adults step in that things start getting awry.
Gulzar recalls confronting one example of adult obtuseness while working on the cartoon TV series Jungle Book for which he wrote well-known lyrics, 'Chaddi Pahan Ke Phool Khila Hai..'. "I'm often asked from where I got the phrase from. It was a question of rapport. I didn't have to wear chaddis. The image was there, A basket with a child and animals looking with wonder at this strange and beautiful flower in their midst! NFDC had a problem with this. I was getting comments like "Aapke kavita mein chaddi bhi aane lagaa". My retort was, "kaun chaddi nahin pahenta". Someone suggested that I replace chaddi with lungi, but I put my foot down. I said, "lungi apne paas rakh aur mera chaddi wapas karo". Imagine such inhibitions over such an innocent thing. It's parents who spoil children. There is nothing wrong with them. You should grow with your child," he says.
In Gulzar's world, children are ideal, little people. It's parents who aren't. "We mould thoughts and tell them lieS like "don't go into the dark, a scorpion will bite you." He adds, "the child reasons that if it hasn't bitten me in daytime, it won't in the night! So, who's the one with excuses?" Gulzar then goes on to say. "What happens at the end is you haven't explained why the child shouldn't go out in the dark. He is left as innocent as he started out. Being absolutely transparent with children is very important."
The difference between children and adults, according to him is that children are emotional. while grown-ups tend to rationalise and turn simple things into intellectual excursions. This, he says, "is what I think we mean by civilization," He elaborates, "When you tell a child a story he or she might insist, "Gaaye wala kahani Sunaao", But as an adult; you enjoy the tale and its telling so much that you ignore the child's demands. It's just a matter of realising how you are imposing your own viewpoint on the child." Allowing children the freedom to listen to what they want to will help them realise their own potential, feels Gulzar. "It's the responsibility of every writer to tell a story that reflects the environment. The story of the hare and tortoise will travel from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and its narration acquires local flavour. That's what culture is about."
The lyricist, who has written scores of songs for the Hindi film industry, concludes with the observation that it's not words that arouse a child's interest but the sound and rhythm. "Like Ba-ba-black sheep, or the rhymes in Alice in Wonderland. "When I was young, we didn't have a culture of getting kids together and telling them stories. So, I tried to put Panchtantra in words and dialogue."