Children's Film Society India was founded soon after India's independence by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, whose affection for children is well known. Pandit Nehru established CFSI with the hope that indigenous and exclusive cinema for children would stimulate their creativity, compassion and critical thinking.
CFSI started functioning in 1955 as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting with Pandit Hriday Nath Kunzru as President. CFSI's maiden production Jaldeep won the first prize for best Children's Film at the 1957 Venice Film Festival. Since then CFSI has continued to produce, exhibit and distribute quality content for children: from feature films, shorts, animations to television episodes and documentaries.
Over the years some of the brightest talents of Indian Cinema – Mrinal Sen, Satyen Bose, Tapan Sinha, K Abbas, Shyam Benegal, MS Sathyu, Sai Paranjpe, Budhdhadeb Dasgupta, Santosh Sivan, Ram Mohan, Rituparno Ghosh and Pankaj Advani to name a few – have directed films for us. They are joined by many other new and imaginative film-makers who have created some of the most delightful children's content in the country.
CFSI promotes films that provide healthy and wholesome entertainment for children to broaden their perspective and encourage them to reflect on the world around. With an enviable catalogue of 250 films in 10 different languages, CFSI remains the prime producer of children's films in South Asia. We also organise film screenings across the country, reaching out to approximately four million children annually.
CFSI is committed to strengthening the children's film movement within India and promoting Indian produced children's films across the globe.
In addition to being an active part of the social sector concerning child rights, Amole Gupte is also an award winning writer, director, producer and actor.His earliest foray into the arts was that into painting, a passion which lasts till today. After school Amole got heavily involved in theatre as the lead actor of Avantar, Mahendra Joshi's theatre group.
He played a variety of roles and was a significant part of the changing theatre scene in Mumbai in the early 80s. Amole then went to the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune, India's premier film school, where although not an official student, he became one of the mainstays of the Institute acting in over a hundred student films over the span of a decade.
Amole soon started writing in the films as well. He acted in and assisted on a film by Ketan Mehta named Holi. His collaboration with Mehta continued into the much acclaimed Mirch Masala where he was a Direction Associate and handled the costumes.
The move to writing was a natural one for him and he soon made a space for himself in mainstream television and film. He participated in the writing of a number of Kundan Shah's scripts including Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. He was also an associate in acclaimed director Saeed Mirza's workshop at FTII and participated in the writing of Mirza's 1995 film Naseem.
All this time, Amole continued drawing and this resulted in his first solo exhibition Depth of Field at Prithvi Gallery in 1995. This was followed by Black Night in 1998. Both exhibitions were very well received.
In 1995-1996, Amole hosted the widely broadcast talk show Bindaas Bol which concerned the anguishes of the young ones and fundamental questions about growing children. It was around this time that children started featuring on Amole's agenda and it resulted in the first draft of High Jump, which would later come to be known as Taare Zameen Par.
The film addressed learning differences and became one of the iconic films of Indian Cinema. It was awarded the Filmfare, Screen and V. Shanataram awards for Best Film and Best Story/Screenplay. Taare Zameen Par was also India's official entry to the Oscars.
The film also triggered another important movement in Amole's life. It led Amole to think about the filming processes of children in mainstream media in the country. Long hours, absence of peers and the long periods of missing school remains a major concern. This unregulated use of children in the media was something which Amole felt needed to be addressed urgently. The need to be in control of the production process in addition to the creative process was felt and Amole, along with his wife Deepa Bhatia, were able to attend to that in their first home production- Stanley ka Dabba.
Stanley ka Dabba is a revolutionary film in many ways, not only in terms of story-telling but also with respect to the processes that were employed in making the film. The film was shot over a series of four hour workshops conducted only on Saturdays and holidays ensuring that the children did not miss out on school. Stanley was also the first film in India to be completely shot on the Canon 7D camera. It was awarded the 2011 Special Jury Action Aid Humanitarian Award and the 2011 Critics Award for Best Film at the Jagran Film Festival, New Delhi. Amole's son and the lead actor of Stanley, Partho Gupte was awarded the National Award, Filmfare Award, Screen Award for the Best Child Actor. He was also awarded Best Actor at the Schlingel Film Festival, Germany where 140 films from 40 nations were competing.
Apart from writing, directing and producing the film, Amole also plays a pivotal role in Stanley ka Dabba. As an actor Amole has made waves with his portrayal of Bhope Bhau in Vishal Bharadwaj's Kaminey. He has also acted in other mainstream hindi films like Phas Gaya Re Obama and Bheja Fry 2 and Santosh Sivan's Malayalam film Urumi.
Another important part of Amole's life has been working with non‐privileged children from all around Mumbai and holding theatre and filmmaking workshops with them. For the past 5 years Amole has been regularly taking workshops on Theatre and Cinema Studies on weekends and vacations at Pali Chimbai Municipal School. The workshops have enabled the children to hone their skills and sensibilities as practicing filmmakers, writers and actors.
The workshops have resulted in two films made by the children, Aansoo Bane Moti and Ummeed. 'Aansoo Bane Moti' was screened at the 1st Children International Film Festival, Mumbai, along with Megan Mylan's Oscar winning documentary, 'Smile Pinki'.
Along with the financially challenged children's sector he has been an active volunteer with various NGOs addressing the needs of children with mental and physical challenges and also children afflicted with cancer at the Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital, Mumbai.
He has been canvassing for the inclusion of cinema as an academic subject in the school curriculum to explore cinema as a 20th century art form.
“When you do something for others, rather than yourself, things will happen in a way you will relish”, believes IRS officer Shravan Kumar. He staunchly feels that when values form the core of everything you do, you always remain grounded no matter how high you rise. He hopes to lend this aspiration to his job as the CEO of CFSI.
Having joined the Indian Revenue service in 1991, Shravan Kumar went on to work as Assistant / Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax in Delhi, PS to Union Minister of State for Agro and Rural Industries, Jt. / Addl. Commissioner of Income Tax in Patna and till recently as Addl. Commissioner of Income Tax, Mumbai.
His posting at CFSI was a welcome appointment for him and he is looking forward to bringing about positive changes in the administrative and commercial affairs of the organisation. His objective is to reach the targeted audience in minimum amount of time with optimum resources, giving children’s cinema wider visibility within and outside the country.
A student of history and anthropology with a PhD in Modern Indian History, Shravan Kumar has the cause of CFSI (of providing healthy wholesome entertainment to children) close to his heart as he is involved with education activities for rural children in Bihar through a Trust he set up in the memory of his late father. Being familiar with the dynamics of working for the welfare of children, he feels, will be of advantage in understanding the market for children’s cinema.
Always a topper through school and college, Shravan Kumar exudes confidence and plans to set realistic targets and then achieve them, giving impetus to the children’s film movement. “Change has to be perceptible for all stakeholders to start believing in the cause, the change then happens swiftly.”