TALKING FILMS

15 films about children to mark Chacha Nehru’s birthday

Children’s Day is the perfect excuse to visit the most enduring cinematic explorations of the world of the little ones.

Our list of the best movies with which to commemorate Children’s Day have passed through a few tests. The children should behave like children, rather than midget-sized adults who know it all. They should sound like themselves, and not deliver dialogue in singsong voices or those high-pitched tones that grate on the nerves. They should preferably be curious rather than precocious, and hang on their innocence and uncorrupted selves. The titles themselves need to reflect the world of the little ones with honesty, intelligence and sensitivity. Humour is a bonus.

Pather Panchali (1955) Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali has child artistes who sparkle. In spite of their poverty, Apu (Subir Banerjee) and Durga (Uma Das Gupta) bring simple pleasures to a life that can still afford running through the fields, dancing in the rain and the sweet-sour taste of blended tamarind.

Subir Banerjee as Apu. Courtesy Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives.
Subir Banerjee as Apu. Courtesy Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives.

Kummatty (1979) G Aravindan’s magical movie examines the folklore surrounding the bogeyman who turns children into animals for fun and then turns them back into humans. One boy in a village misses the moment when the spell is broken and is stuck in a dog’s body. Evocatively shot by Shaji N Karun, the movie features a lovely musical score.

My Dear Kuttichattan (1984) This early 3D film in Malayalam by Jijo Punnoose, dubbed in Hindi as Chhota Chetan, is firmly embedded in the memories of the children of the 1980s. Kuttichatan is a ghost who escapes the spell of an evil sorcerer and befriends three children, one of whom has a comically alcoholic father (Dalip Tahil). Among its highlights: Kuttichattan walking on the walls, and smuggling his friends into a cabaret show that soon becomes sanskari, thanks to Kuttichattan’s magic.

Mr India (1987) Shekhar Kapur proved that he could create winsome child characters in Masoom (1983). In Mr India, a movie for the child inside every adult, Kapur assembles a band of children who are inspired by the bratty brood from The Sound of Music. They play off beautifully against the adults, especially in the acclaimed “Tina, meri dost banogi?” scene.

Play
‘Mr India’.

Salaam Bombay! (1998) Mira Nair’s estimable debut features street children playing versions of themselves. The hardscrabble world of truants, drug peddlers, pint-sized thieves and child prostitutes hustling for survival and snatched moments of happiness on the streets of Mumbai is marvellously performed by the non-professional actors, especially Shafiq Syed as the lead character Krishna.

Abhayam (1991) Santosh Sivan has made his share of acclaimed children’s films, including Halo, Malli, and Tahaan, while the actor Tarun is better known for Mani Ratnam’s Anjali (1990). But both shone in a different project altogether. The Malayalam film Abhayam, directed by the cinematographer’s father, Sivan, is the charming tale of Vinu (Tarun), who feels oppressed enough by his alarm clock and his school to flee home and try and make his way to his beloved grandfather’s house in the village.

Play
‘Abhayam’.

Halo (1996) When Sasha finds a stray puppy and names him Halo, her mother-less life suddenly seems complete. When Halo goes missing, Sasha (Benaf Dadachandji, outstanding) assembles her friends (including an adorable bald and bespectacled boy) and sets out on a hunt throughout Mumbai. Since the movie has been written by Sanjay Chhel and beautifully shot and directed by Santosh Sivan from a knee-high perspective, all the adults behave comically, including Raj Kumar Santoshi as Sasha’s father and Mukesh Rishi as the kindly police inspector.

Play
‘Halo’.

Iqbal (2005) Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal shows the will and promise of an upcoming deaf-mute cricketer played by a fresh and unmannered Shreyas Talpade, but the superb performance of Shweta Prasad who plays his twinkling-eyed, canny younger sister is what complements his story and makes for the film’s delightful moments.

Little Zizou (2008) Sooni Taraporevala’s directorial debut looks at the debate over racial purity within the Parsi community through the eyes of our titular hero, a Zinedine Zidane fan. His real name (Xerxes) is as much of an embarrassment as Khodaiji, his fundamentalist priest father. Zizou’s adventures are interwoven with his brother Art’s one-sided romance, the liberal newspaper publisher Presswala’s battles against Khodaiji, and Presswala’s sparky daughter, Liana. Taraporevala’s own children, Jehan and Iyanah, play Zizou and Liana.

Pasanga (2009) Although they fail our no-precocious test, the kids from Pasanga are irresistible. Pandiraj’s debut feature, in Tamil, is about the rivalry between Anbukkarasu, future Collector of his Tamil Nadu district, and his neighbour and classmate Jeeva, who is the son of the school teacher. The bitter contest unfolds even as Anbukkarasu’s uncle falls for Jeeva’s sister.

Play
‘Pasanga’.

Stanley Ka Dabba (2011) Despite its insistently upbeat tone, Amole Gupte’s movie is actually the sad story of an orphan who is shamed by his teacher for not bringing a lunchbox to school. Stanley (Partho Gupte) tucks into the food his classmates bring every day, and surprises his teacher by turning up with his own meal one day.

‘Stanley Ka Dabba’.
‘Stanley Ka Dabba’.

The Good Road (2013) Grim and gritty, Gyan Correa’s The Good Road was the controversial entry for the Oscars in 2013. Along with Aditya (Keval Katrodia) and Poonam (Poonam Kesar Singh), the film shows children who are lost in many ways. Strong and plucky, each child copes tearlessly to find a way out of their circumstances.

Kaaka Muttai (2015) M Manikandan’s beautifully observed and performed drama about two impoverished brothers who dream about pizza is about the real slumdogs who will never be millionaires. Known only as Crow’s Egg Senior (Vignesh) and Crow’s Egg Junior (Ramesh), the boys work hard to contribute to their household’s meagre earnings, but their resolve is tested when they encounter the cheesy pleasures of pizza.

Killa (2015) Cycling races, bathroom banter, and the memory of a summer spent in light and shadow – Avinash Arun’s moving debut is the story of 11-year-old Chinmay, who adjusts to a new school and a new set of friends after his mothers gets transferred. The class topper soon rebels, aided by a bunch of the most natural-sounding kids seen on the screen.

Play
‘Killa’.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) Can anybody steal a film from under the nose of Salman Khan? Yes, she can. The angelic Harshaali Malhotra plays Munni, a mute girl from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir who gets lost in Agra and is taken home by the good-hearted Pavan (Khan) and intrepid Pakistani reporter Chand Nawab (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Malhotra regains her speech in the last tear-jerking moments, but her expressive face and camera-friendliness speak volumes.

Play
‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’.
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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

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2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

Watch Big Little Lies Now

4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

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6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

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10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

Watch Rome Now

For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.