Sniff (2017), a film about a young boy who acquires a heightened sense of smell and uses it to solve crimes, releases this Friday. Its director Amole Gupte is most known for conceiving the National Award-winning Taare Zameen Par (2007), along with his wife, editor Deepa Bhatia. He was also the creative director and writer on the film.
Gupte went on to make two more films – Stanley Ka Dabba in 2011 and Hawaa Hawaai in 2014. Apart from his work directing, he has also served as chairperson of the Children’s Film Society India from 2012 to 2015.
We asked the director to recommend some seminal children’s movies that have left a profound impact on him. Below is the list of films, in no particular order:
1. Sant Tukaram (1936)
This was the first film with children at the centre that actually touched me. It was path-breaking for India as well. Picked for a special recommendation at Venice Film Festival, it is a Marathi film from Prabhat Studios made by Vishnupant Damle, a sound designer and Sheikh Fattelal, an art director.
It’s such an uplifting experience because it gives you a slice of such pristine, simple, honest, emotive life. It reminds me of F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927) about a single farming family.
2. Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven (1997) and The Color of Paradise (1999)
Seeing is believing. These films have touched me deeply and really reinvented children’s cinema for a large part of the world. They brought in the verité, the truth, in such a fashion that it changed the style of filmmaking in the world. I would say Stanley Ka Dabba (2011) is in a way a tribute to the simplicity of Iranian children’s films.
3. The films of François Truffaut
Without Truffaut, the churning of children’s content wouldn’t have begun in the world. The 400 Blows (1959) – a serious film about delinquency is an all-time favourite. Along with that, Les Mistons (1957). You can’t separate the filmmaker from his films. A clear and dear favourite is Pocket Money (1976) – it creates a world of children that you don’t feel like leaving once you’ve experienced it.
4. & 5. Do Bigha Zamin (1953) and Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Both these films deal with father-son relationships. They are neo-realist films. Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zamin (1953) spoke about farmer problems and farmers’ crises. It was a very early warning bell of the state of farmers in India.
De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948) gives you a sense of Rome, and Italy in general, during the Depression era. It was terrible. When you see little Otto, it crushes you. Shot on real locations, it was the first time that a camera ever travelled out of Cinecitta studios.
6. Pather Panchali (1955)
This film is a document on children. I screen this for my poor children from municipal schools, who I do workshops with. It’s the real story of their lives. We screen it on a stained white cloth that acts as a screen, trying to focus with a cheap projector. Light filters in randomly from ten different places but not a single child shifts! It makes you feel like all is not lost.