Disney Has Gutted the Market for Indian Films for Kids, Says Children's Author Nandana Sen
Actress-turned-author Nandana Sen spoke exclusively to News18.com on writing for children, Indian cinema and why there is a need to translate regional content.
Actress Nandana Sen wears many hats with equal aplomb. Best known for her performances in films like Black, Rang Rasiya, Gudia and Autograph, the actress is a popular children’s author, a screen writer and a child rights activist. For someone who works so closely with kids, Nandana feels that there aren’t enough films that are made for children in India.
“Some beautiful films have been made by filmmakers like Vishal Bhardwaj, Nagesh Kukunoor, Neel Madhav Panda- so there are a few but certainly they aren’t enough,” said the author while speaking exclusively to News18.com during the recently concluded Jaipur Literature Festival.
“I grew up at a time when Satyajit Ray was making lot of films for kids, there was Tapan Sinha who made Safed Haathi. I watched the works of such directors. I feel sad that children in India do not have access to wonderful cinema, their culture the way I had as a child.” Nandana though feels that the invasion of Disney has ‘gutted’ the market for Indian films for kids. “Most children’s films come from America. A lot of them are beautiful films but I do feel my understanding of culture was a lot better through some wonderful children’s films.”
Nandana has written 3 books for kids and feels its fun to write for them but also a big responsibility. “One has to be careful about what one chooses to write because children are hugely impressionable, which is what makes writing exciting. You really have chance to make a difference, a chance to what she/he values.”
A child rights activist, Nandana works closely with the Unicef and is the current ambassador of operation smile for Rahi Foundation. She has worked for the last 25 years with children which is why she finds writing for children fun and exciting.
While she admits that there aren’t enough films made for children in India, she adds that there is a rich culture of writing for kids in the county. “Regionally as well as nationally,” Nandana adds.
Nandana is the daughter of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and one of Bengal’s most celebrated authors Nabanita Dev Sen. Having grown up on a healthy diet of both English and Bengali books, Nandana does feel that book reading habit is slowly diminishing. “When we were growing up, there was no TV allowed. I was a nerd from age 4. I started reading super early. I read all the time. I probably read more in my first 20 years of my life. Can’t imagine my childhood without books.”
Nandana blames 24/7 television and pervasion of various digital formats in people’s life for the lack of interest in books. “What is happening is that attention span of children is getting shorter and shorter.”
Ironically, Nandana points out that in the world of publishing, children’s books are flourishing- worldwide. But Indian authors face a strong competition from authors like JK Rowling, she feels.
For someone who has read Bengali books as well as English books in equal measures during her growing up years, Nandana feels that a lot of good literature never gets translated from vernacular languages to English language and hence fails to reach a larger audience. “We haven’t focused enough on translation which plays a massive role in keeping regional literature alive.” She has herself translated one of her motrher’s books in English to reach out to a wider audience.
Does she feel that like cinema, there is unnecessary censorship over literature? “How can you deny, if you see the incidents, the deaths of liberal authors that have happened in the last two years. But it’s happening all over the world. And it’s a global crisis. It’s in cinema, it’s in literature, in journalism, visual arts. It’s in every form of expression and I find that frightening, it’s dangerous. It’s not crisis local to India though, it is happening worldwide,” Nandana said.