[O]ur childhood memories of children cinema never went beyond The Kid, The Tramp or The Circus. It was Charlie Chaplin all over. Then I watched Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali– and my definition of children cinema changed forever. Apu and Durga became icons. I never cared of the argument, whether Pather Panchali is a children film or not. Apu was in my thoughts all through my journey as a filmmaker since the time I saw the film for the first time – I doubt whether Apu inside me will ever leave me.
Since Apu started growing up inside me, my vision about cinema and my language of expression through lenses always evolved with the inquisitiveness, which the character of Apu inculcated in me.
Then I studied Applied Psychology and specialized in Developmental Psychology. I realized the crime we are committing everyday to the millions of little souls. Our civilization evolved, society evolved and the advent of science and technology has touched the crescendo. We all are jumping on the sky with the discovery of “God Particle”. But, in all these – over the period of time, every arrangement is made to kill Apu inside us.
We decide which color or design of cloth our child will wear. We decide what our child will watch on television, we decide which gadget he or she will be using. We decide everything for them. That is our way to make our child a topper, a champion, a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. No matter, these machines called children, finally become ‘the one’ or not. One thing is for certain, they don’t become a better human being, at the least.
The simplest souls on the Earth are forced to live in the most complex world. A world that is unfriendly, cruel and regressive to the next generation, who are more aware of a mobile phone or Pizza, than a Banyan tree or a Neem tree.
It is a crisis. A deep down rooted crisis. A crisis that is worse than the Ozone-layer depletion or global warming. I am scared, whether any Apu will ever exist in our existence or not. I always believed – if anything is left in our world for those tiny hearts (to let the last Apu live for the world of tomorrow), it is cinema.
In undivided Soviet Union the children’s cinema was an important means for promoting the communist upbringing of children since 1917, immediately after the revolution. The children’s cinema there by design, was developed through the traditions of Soviet cinematic art and the artistic achievements of their literature, theater and follows the principles of Soviet pedagogy. In making children’s cinema, the age characteristics of the young viewers and the specific way of their thinking and aesthetic perception (I mention as, “their Apu”) are always their highest priority.
The children’s cinema was first developed as a special branch of motion-picture art in the Soviet Union. In pre-revolutionary Russia screen adaptations of Russian folk tales and of works of classical literature as well as early Russian animated cartoons were sometimes shown at children’s film sessions in Petersburg, Moscow and other cities. The first film for young people, AA Arkatov’s The Signal, based on VG Garshin’s short story, was released in 1918, and regular production of children’s films began in 1924. Children’s film theaters were opened in major cities and schools were provided with projection equipment. In 1931 a scientific-methodological film sector was established at the Central House for the Artistic Upbringing of Children in Moscow.
From 1936 to 1948 the center of the Soviet children’s cinema was Soiuzdetfil’m (All-Union Children’s Film Studio). In 1936, Soiuzmul’tfilm (All-Union Animated Cartoon Studio) was created, which produced cartoons for children. In 1959 the association Iunost’ (Youth) was organized at Mosnfil’m (Moscow Film Studio), and in 1963 the M. Gorky Film Studio was reorganized into the M. Gorky Central Studio of Children’s and Young People’s Films.
I wanted to talk only about Apu – but, diverted the route a bit to talk about the Russian effort to keep the Apu alive, in every Russian child. Why Russia disintegrated, I shall not unfurl that conversation here, but there, Apu still hasn’t died in the children of Russia even after almost 100-years, in spite of the all out global initiative to kill him. Hence, the story of Apu of Russia was so important.
Many a times, I tried to tell my story. My own story. A journey from an insignificant hamlet of northeast part of Indian Himalayas to the limelight of world cinema. I want to tell the story of Apu in me. I never bothered myself with what I have achieved – I only struggled hard to keep the Apu in me alive. Veda said, “Charoibati…Charoiboti…” (Just keep moving).
When I was preparing to say my heartfelt sorry to Apu – I saw the advertisement of Green Screen Lab in a corner of a newspaper. I told them, I want to infuse new life to the Apu inside me. They didn’t take much time to welcome me.
My Apu is still running – didn’t stop even after achieving his dream of having the first look of the steam engine, from the midst of the bush of autumn grass (Kaas grass)… he is still running… he has nothing to lose… but has the whole world to win.