Sunday, 22 November 2015

What made #19ICFFI a landmark?

Dr Shravan Kumar looks back at the week gone by at this edition of the children’s film festival in Hyderabad

Over 2.5 lakh children saw our films
We reached out like never before as we set a new attendance record for ourselves: Over 2.5 lakh children watched the set of films we laid out in the 19th ICFFI 2015 in Hyderabad.  The programme content and structure was widely acclaimed by the public and critics both. The fact that jury member Satish Kaushik even postponed his flight to stay back and watched every film like a student made it an absolute pleasure! So much so that everybody is already reaching out to us and our celebration in 2017.

Raising relevant questions at open forums
The open forums at the 19th ICFFI 2015 had a lot of interesting debates – be it with policy makers or theater people or even the film makers who brought up very relevant queries and concerns. We ensured that all questions found answers or atleast were documented to be reviewed by those concered.

Be it 360 degree marketing of films, where we learnt lessons from the commercial success of Chotta Bheem through Samir Jain of Green Gold or film maker Nishit Takia who shared his difficulties faced on distribution in India: “It is truly difficult to get screens in India. Our film in China was screened in 12000 screens simultaneously. Children’s cinema hasn’t taken a form of paid entertainment in India.” And I understood his heartbreaking dilemma!

Moderator and curator Ashish S K – a film maker in his own right rounded it aptly when he said the digital platform is changing the way Indian content is being consumed and on the type of screen “We have to now make episodes/videos for 7 minutes rather 22 minutes to hold their attention!”

Making workshops count!

The workshops held for 5 days at Jawahar Bal Bhavan brought in the best quality of teachers to the forums. As I did my rounds, I was happy to watch the progress and interact with the young children delighted at this opportunity. And also glad to have an answer to a question raised by the Class X student of Mahboobia Girls Government School in Hyderabad – Bushra Begum. Bushra who is in love with animation, was thrilled with the animation workshop set out in our schedule, practicing even after class ended and even sharing her lessons with her neighbours and friends. She asked me with much concern, “How can I continue this learning after the workshop?” Luckily, I was able to reach out to the IT secretary in Telangana to look at a revised way to include animation in the school curriculum. And this truly is the power of these interactions – where the voice of the children can reach those in power easily without getting lost in translation.

The Jury fought with us for more awards!
The members of the jury fought with us to award more films and people. They complained that some of the films, especially in Live Action category deserved more awards. We had to double the number of awards in the Little Director’s Category! They were persistent in their endeavor hounding me and the team every day last week to give out more awards. “How can we do our duty and be fair to the content and the outstanding movies we have seen?” was what I heard from every single jury member.  It was truly the final salute to the excellent curation of films done internally by the CFSI team who watched 1204 submissions to pull out the best. Hear film director Satish Kaushik also share his experience on video

The celebration continues
The number of requests received from people all over the country for us to ensure they see the movies is phenomenal. Our plan at CFSI is to start with Kashmir and take the films and the workshops to Kanyakumari – because the celebration of films and the celebration of children can never end!

Hope you will join us too in them and spread the mandate of promoting every child's right to entertainment across the country. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

“We need to tell our own stories”

CEO Dr Shravan Kumar emphasizes the importance of ethnic content

What came first?The egg or the chicken?
A similar question is always posed for most problems and queries across the world.

Is the product more important? Is marketing more important?
Is the distribution important? Or can a film/content ride on its own legs using a digital platform?
Do we need to follow trends? Or how can we continuously create trends?
Do we have our own style? Or go with one that brings you instant fame or commercial success?

These are universal questions. They apply as much to any business -- as they apply to children’s films. Which is what our open forums have addressed in the last few days through our meets with government, jury, film makers, media and the audience at the 19th ICFFI 2015.

Festival Director Dr Shravan Kumar with the Telangana Jury

I am a firm believer of getting the basics right. To me, that means telling our stories and our content in the most authentic manner. It means finding our own voice, our own style and not be worried about where the world is progressing. My belief has been proved right with Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya which we produced and created not in the western Disney and Cartoon Network style – but in our own format.

We did market it – sent it out to film festivals and upped the ante to how far we could push the screen. The results were delightful. So much so, that we were given a red carpet invite to TIFF Kids in Toronto, where most people pay to show their films. We even won an award, following which it was easier to get audiences to see it both at home and abroad.

What that one experience re-affirmed to me is that story telling is universal but marketing needs to be both global and then local. The experience of this film brought many lessons in fore and perhaps a winning formula too of creating a film, winning awards and allowing the great content to be visible.
In that format, digital platform and events like film festivals like ICFFI and NCFF both have a strong role to play side by side. While our content goes abroad and depicts our language, customs and heroes – and this is possible with the play on digital –we also find the digital platform and events play a strong part in enhancing visual literacy of our own children.

Moments of our childhood are encapsulated in story telling sessions by our grandparents, uncle, aunts and parents. They were key to our growing as we heard the narrative. Now it’s time as we live in nuclear families, we also expose our children to the visual narrative by allowing them to watch meaningful content… of meaningful Indian content!

Which is why this biennial celebration of children’s films is so close to my heart and we knock on every door possible to garner support and eyeballs for it – so it reaches the end consumer – the children who are growing way too fast! 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Nothing but the children

How do I know our 19th ICFFI 2015 is going well?

It is by the compliments it brings from the children. My biggest applause has come from IX grader Maryam Fatima in the middle of all the melee on day 3 who wrote in to us on Facebook: “ICFFI is doing an amazing job. Thanks for the fabulous experience.”

It’s also when volunteers from St Mary’s College who have 40 of their students take a week off from college and have been on their feet nonstop ushering, managing audiences, guests as they take in films from across the world share, “We wish we had seen some of these films in our childhood…”  that you know it’s a good job done.

When friends from the media write stories on a group of 8 kids coming all the way from Patna as a part of a children’s association to sample and enjoy the spread we have laid out in Hyderabad across 13 screens, I know we have accomplished the mission we set out for – to open worlds, perspectives for children in our little way.

I watch 40 kids enthusiastically wait for theater and TV personality Lalit Parmanoo to teach them their next lesson in Abhinay Yog to overcome their inhibitions as a part of the workshop sessions we have organized at the 19 ICFFI 2015. I watched Priya, Apeksha and others from Pomegranate films help children find wings with animation lessons and script writing and I cannot be happier to see their response

The love showered by the children at the 19 ICFFI has been phenomenal. Every director has been surrounded by the kids. Be it Kim-Sung Ho after the screening of his film How to Steal a Dog or the genteel director of the Golden Horse Renis Kalnaellis. They are bombarded for autographs and pictures even though the two don’t speak the same language. 

I couldn’t help smiling myself as these kids surrounded me and asked me for autographs on Day 2 as I walked around and took in their feedback. That appreciation matters even more than any reams of paper written about us – because they are so honest with their love and affection!

As I watch parents run up, debate which movie their child must watch and on which screen, it humbles me of the opportunity we have to entertain, create and push kids to think beyond their usual boundaries and their usual toys. It is this healthy debate, this conversation, the discussion post movies that matters the most and shows us of the experience we have created for these kids.

Our aim to reach more people pushes us to try harder – be it colouring the entire city with hoardings with the kind help of the Telangana Government – or even request talented actresses like Kareena, Karisma Kapoor and Tabu to join us at the festival to provide their encouragement and support. It’s also made us ensure every single foreign director and delegate enjoys their time in India. Be it Helene Comeositos and Carlos Zarco sampling the cuisine and watching other films themselves! Or our jury members like Satish Kaushik, Shilpa Shukla and others working tirelessly behind the scenes to watch as many films and share their comments with us!

Friday, 13 November 2015

And the curtains open...

Dr Shravan Kumar, the CEO talks about yet another edition of the International Children’s Film Festival of India.

What goes into making a successful film festival? I always wonder every two years before the curtains open as I watch the activity around me.
In my mind, no festival works without the joint effort of people. To start with my team that works tirelessly behind the scenes as they camp in Hyderabad which has become our favourite haunt. The other important consideration is 80 participating and over 1200 film makers that also tirelessly support us much after their film has been made so as to ensure the film makes it to being screened at the festival.

The other support that comes to us behind the scenes over 100+ volunteers from colleges in Hyderabad. They work in ushering teams, delegates, kids, parents and ensuring the necessary manpower for 7 days that a film festival – this size-- has now begun to need. However, our biggest bolster comes from the government of Telangana which has whole heartedly in every way supported our cause.

However, the most important people in the festival remain the children and our extremely diverse audience. We work very hard to ensure that their voice and their tastes come through on screen as we bring to fruition intelligent and interesting cinema that may open a whole new world and perspectives. The post screening discussions are so invigorating that they not only inspire the kids but even me to learn and grow more.

However, nothing beats the joy of children learning, thinking, feeling and being open in their hearts to discussions and watch their minds being opened to the world. In my opinion, the ICFFI and The Golden Elephant remains the best gift we can give them on Children’s Day. Children have a lot of expectations from us and the ICFFI is a conscious effort to deliver what we can making this a hub for young film makers.

A lot of other film festivals have also started coming up around us. We don’t view them as competition. To us, every film fest serves a different objective yet with a common goal: to showcase good content with a perfect blend of international and national content! To us, our prime motive of providing children entertainment that’s real is key – to highlight to them human infallibility, unheroic characters and the daily banalities of life in the country and across the world. 

The proof of our success will lie as we open our doors today. Like they say in acting speak, we hope to break a leg! 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Clicking with Children’s Content!

It’s never been more important than now to make films for children. As young minds all over- be it in a metro city or in a village in India, or even one in another country – children are being exposed to newer channels of entertainment than ever before. Very little of this content has been created only keeping their needs in mind.

Adding layers of complexity to this entertainment is the environment around them – some of it holding out strains of dysfunctional families, others dealing with an environment of stress, strife and difficulty. Competitions in schools keeps things busy and the race of marks is making childhood more fraught than enjoyable.

Which is why stories told for children, by the children and now also of children remains our biggest focus at CFSI. Every child in the world needs to find his story told or find his voice echoed on screen. If we at CFSI are able to execute that – bring disparate voices from across the world to expose our children to the best of content – we would have achieved our milestone of creating, showcasing and bringing regular content for children.  

Our attempt with the 19thGolden Elephant Festival is also to move beyond the ordinary. Which is why our theme is “Digital India” – keeping in touch with the digital revolution now touching children’s lives and also staying abreast with the times. The idea remains to speak in their language, engage with them through innovative and diverse films – produced nationally and internationally.
This explains our desire to also curate the films internally. Given our sixty years of in-depth understanding through our activities around creating & disseminating wholesome entertainment for children, this year we have decided to undertake this ourselves after different stages of selection from over 1200 entries received from 80 countries via the digital platform. 

Furthermore, we have entered into a direct agreement with YouTube to upload CFSI films on their platform, so as to reach a wider, global audience. Our play through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter has also become stronger, only so that we can be on any big or small screen that can entertain a child!

Here’s hoping they click to get through right to us. That will be our biggest endeavor.

* For more updates please follow our official FB and Twitter page.

Monday, 11 May 2015


Mothers are special. It’s not just about giving birth. It’s way beyond that. Our sheer existence, our nurturing from a juvenile to a mature and for the many years ahead as a guiding force, mother’s role is unending in our lives.

From the scriptures to the documented history, from east to the west, from across the sections of society, from Krishna’s mother Yashoda to Shivaji’s mother Jija Bai, we have seen plenty of examples on the glory of motherhood.

As we grow up and get busy with lives, we end up forgetting very often the reason of our own existence and the role of our mothers in our lives.

On this Mother’s Day, I would like to inform that CFSI will soon be coming out with a new movie (Happy Mother’s Day) based on this life-giving entity, whom we call mother.

Story of CFSI’s new film “Happy Mother’s Day” is based on growing up in a small town away from the corporate metro influences. A place, where the local indigenous flavours of Milk, Sevai, Matthi were giving way to Maggi, Coke, Lays etc.

It’s the colourful attractive trivia traveling to us from far off lands. Not only did it change our acquired tastes but also it changed the societal norms and status consciousness as well. The entire change was intriguing in a strange way.

Our little minds would hardly realize the corporate and global extravaganza that paved way for it, but we did get mesmerized with the display of assortments and the fancy new shop windows and the changing facades. We yearned to procure a present for the mother for the Mother’s Day to demonstrate that we loved her.  And many similar instances where consumerism has to testify the importance and value of emotion.

We fell prey and rediscovered and reoriented ourselves as we grew up. CFSI’s film Happy Mother’s Day is a simplistic endeavour in retracing that journey of growing up. The essence of the story is its simplicity and innocence.

It is also set in a small town. With both these considerations, it is necessary to keep the outdoor and sets basic and uncluttered. Without moralizing, some subtext about the replacement of traditional commodities with modern ones are being introduced.

The two protagonists are children – cinematography should serve to bring forth their simplistic point of view, without seeking to impress. Editing stays with the narrative, and sound design and music lend impetus to fragile and innocent emotions.

Few basic sets, circus setup, outdoor locations in hills, a school, and houses sufficiently to sum up the entire story.

Shravan Kumar
Chief Executive Officer