The last decade of the twentieth century saw the impact of economic liberalization on Indian cinema. This is best exemplified by the transition from rickety single-screen cinema halls to plush multiplex theatres. This was followed by a further boost in 1998 when the National Democratic Alliance government granted cinema the status of an industry. The nature of film financing changed and the corporate sector stepped into movie-making.
In recent times the entertainment industry has seen a sudden boom, with a growth rate of 15.8 per cent in 2011, Indian television industry stood second when compared with BRIC and other major developed economies. In 2016, television market was expected to generate US$ 9.62 billion revenue, making it among the biggest industries in India.
The numbers are certainly impressive – in terms of the number of films produced each year, Bollywood is firmly on top of the pile with 1,602 in 2012 alone. The U.S. produced 476 films that year while the Chinese managed 745. In the same year, Hollywood sold 1.36 billion tickets compared to Bollywood’s enormous 2.6 billion.2 This industry’s growth has attracted more individuals, including child artists to participate and use this opportunity to showcase their talent.
In 2016, the Government of India amended the act governing child labour and recognised the rights of “child artists.” The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 defines an ‘‘artist’’ as a child who performs or practices any work as a hobby or profession directly involving him as an actor, singer, sports person or in such other activity relating to the entertainment or sports activities. It also lays down rules and regulations that govern the employment of these children. Along with the NCPRC, the act attempts to safeguard the growth and development of a child.
A child’s growth and development is a complex mechanism that involves multiple factors, inter-related to one another and if any growth stimulating factor is neglected it could lead to significant complications in the child’s behaviour. Child actors or artists are perhaps most susceptible to fall prey to vicissitude of time, when they find themselves at the cross-roads, unable to find work once their charm wears off. Screen analyses the pitfalls of facing success at an early stage and how these children cope in life later.
Children are naïve; directors are thus able to bring a refreshing look to their movie, the audience is regaled by their antics on screen and often empathise with their plight depending on the content of the film, however little or no attention is paid to the psyche of the child, the changes in emotional or behavioural patterns, and the difficulties that the child may go through during the making of the film and once the spotlight shifts from them. Enlisted below are five factors that should be stressed upon while employing children.
Mental health and well-being:
Participating in an adult-oriented industry, children are often exposed to unsuitable, anxiety inducing, and at times, dangerous operational hazards and situations. Many of these problems may be inherent and generic to the industry, but children, unlike their adult counterparts, should not be expected to handle the emotional and physical stress. It needs to be remembered that, by and large, children do not join the industry of their own volition. There is always an adult involved – a parent, or caretaker – who takes the decision for them. In the absence of any monitoring mechanism, there is every likelihood of child actors being exploited when it comes to the number of hours worked per day, and short-changed in terms of educational and safety provisions.
Child artists are often immensely appreciated and acceptance among the masses while they are still children; however as they grow up these children are not able to handle the rejection they are put through once the flush of success wanes off. There have been several instances in the past, when actors who have been highly successful as child artistes find it difficult to find a place in the industry once their cherubic charm fades away.
The NCPCR provide that no child should be cast in a role or situation that is inappropriate to the child or that may distress him/her or put him/her in embarrassing situations. Consideration has to be given to the child’s age, maturity, emotional or psychological development and sensitivity. No child should be shown to be imbibing alcohol, smoking or using any other substance or shown to be indulging in any sort of antisocial activity and delinquent behaviour. Children should not engage in any situation involving nudity.
In case of programmes based on victims of child abuse, the content should be sensitively handled and the way children are projected should not harm or risk their welfare. No child should be made to perform or enact scenes or mouth dialogues that are inappropriate for his/her age or those that may cause him/her distress. Participation of children in scenes depicting violence – whether verbal or physical – should be avoided. The reality shows should not be competition based.
No child should be exposed to ridicule, insult or discouragement, harsh comments or any behaviour that could affect his/her emotional health and instead the remarks by the judges on reality shows/talent hunt shows should be encouraging. A child’s sensitivity should be borne in mind while evaluating his/her performance in reality shows.
Since a child’s mind can be influenced easily, the guidelines issues must be carefully followed. Nitesh Tiwari, the director of the popular films Chillar Party and Bhoothnath Returns, rightly stated that the problem begins once the child grows up, this is problem is because the requirements for an adult actor and child are different. The child may not fit into the criteria of being the lead actor when he or she grows up. This could disillusion them.
Physical health, rest and leisure:
While working in the film industry children have to often wait for hours before their role has to be shot. In order to regulate this the Child Labour states that the period of work on each day shall be so fixed that no period shall exceed three hours and that no child shall work for more than three hours before he has had an interval for rest for at least one hour.
The period of work of a child shall be so arranged that inclusive of his interval for rest, under sub-section (2), it shall not be spread over more than six hours, including the time spent in waiting for work on any day. No child shall be permitted or required to work between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. No child shall be required or permitted to work overtime. No child shall be required or permitted to work in any establishment on any day on which he has already been working in another establishment.
The NCPRC rules and regulations state the producer is required to provide appropriate and nutritious food, water and other suitable drinks to the children during the process of production. The producer is also required to make the food available at reasonable times, which would include during meal breaks and breaks for morning and afternoon tea. Recreational material and rest facilities should be available on the production set. Facilities should be appropriate to the age and needs of each child who is to use them (listen to children).
The child’s physical well-being is as important as his mental well being, by following the rules and regulations laid down by the legislature one can ensure better child safety while participating in such activities.
It is agreed that participation in sports and cultural activities help in the overall development of the child. At the same time education is a fundamental right. The Right to Education Act, 2009 makes education mandatory for all children in the age group 6-14 years. In this context it is the responsibility of the parents and the production unit to ensure that the school attendance of child performers is not affected due to their acting obligations. In production, as far as possible, the child’s acting schedule should be worked around holidays and school vacations.
For a child actor, who has to face the pressure of studies and make time for shooting, can indeed be taxing on his or her health. There are some film-makers like Amole Gupte, who is the director of the popular film Stanley Ka Dabba, kept the child’s school schedule in mind and shoot accordingly either during vacations or on weekends. But most of the time, this is not the case; often the entire schedule of the child is changed, whether he has school or exams.
A popular Marathi film, Ha Majha Marg Ekla (1962), debuted one of the most successful child actors Sachin Pilgaonkar. In an interview with him he put forth his opinion about education taking a major backseat when a child enters the film industry, he stated that “However best you try to talk to the film-maker, if you have to meet a deadline, you have to shoot with them. The attitude is, ‘never mind, let him miss school, we’ll do something about it. It is very difficult for the child to catch up with the portion he has lost out on.”
He further states that, “So it becomes a different kind of frustration for the child, which he is unable to cope with. The matter worsens when he is starstruck, and starts enjoying his popularity and stardom. In such cases, not only does the child miss out on his childhood, but also there is the danger that the child in you stops existing. It is a very dicey situation, I was among the fortunate actors who played major roles in films, rather than play someone’s childhood character or brother. Because of this, my education did suffer”.
Protection and safety:
Children are to be directly supervised by at least one parent or a known person and by a person with specified child-care qualifications. A baby may only be allowed to participate in a programme if one of the baby’s parents or a known person is present at all times. In addition, where a baby is allowed to participate for more than one hour on a single day, a registered nurse or midwife must be present at all times. A baby is defined as a child under one year of age. Children under 6 years may be supervised at all times by at least one parent or a known person as well as by a registered nurse, a midwife or a person with an early childhood or child-care qualification. The qualification degree or diploma should be recognized by Government of India. Children 6 years or over may be supervised by at least one parent or a known person.
Lastly, a child should also be heard while the movie is being directed. Under article 19 of the constitution of India, it is provided that everyone has the right of freedom of speech and expression. This right has also been given to a child. During the course of their short careers, some children may get exposed to sudden wealth and fame. The possibilities of such children being exploited increases as their parents are likely to then be tempted by the spotlight or the possibility of augmenting the family income by pushing them into new assignments.
Since the contracts and/or dealings are carried out by the adults (the parent/caretaker), there is currently no way of ensuring that the income is protected and set aside for the child. The emotional and psychological effect on children that may accompany their foray into this media where fame and adulation could be transient also needs to be considered.
Children may encounter sudden popularity or even alienation in schools from their peers. Very few children manage a successful transition to adult actors and maintain the fame and fortune. The effect that such actions can have on their emotional and psychological stability has been well researched and acknowledged by professional psychologists.
Taking into consideration the vulnerability of children there is a need for special safeguards and care of children. Appropriate legal protection of children is important and unarguable when they participate in the entertainment industry.
Child performers need to be treated with respect and their rights; needs and development must be of primary consideration.
This article was authored by Aman Bahl, CRY Intern and student of Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur, mentored by Anuja. S, Associate General Manager, Policy Advocacy, Child Rights and You (CRY)