I am in touch with many child artists and some of them are very close to my heart. They are like family time. Young buddies and sometimes I become their secret holder too. A few days back, there was one video posted by one of these young buddies on WhatsApp that says life has stalled. I called her to ask what was bothering her. She spoke the world to me but ignored all that is asked her. They are children. I don’t probe them or get into those talks where they show no interest. After an hour or so she received her call again, and she told me my father was around so I refrained from talking. When she opened up about what all she is missing since six months of lockdown got tears to my eyes. Above all, she is missing that compassion and attention from her own parents because right now her utility is zero. Her father blames for not getting back to assignment whereas this is not in her hand. Well, I understood her point and asked her to be strong and not get into a sad zone. Separately. Spoke to her mother to update her about current scenarios in the film and TV industry. This is where my alarm rang and I started calling all those child artists who are in touch with me for years, some of them are five and some of them are now 14 to 15. Most of them are going through some unknown fear and anxiety. These young minds are very sensitive, what they need is kindness and consideration. More than the adults, the young minds are suffering with the stress of not working, not going to school, no outing, or no friends around. They feel caged and choked. Children may encounter sudden popularity or even hostility in schools from their peers and sometimes over attention due to their fame. Very few children manage a successful transition to adult actors and maintain fame and fortune. The effect that such actions can have on their emotional and psychological stability has been well researched and acknowledged by many professional psychologists.
These youngsters are very vulnerable and there is a need for special safeguards and care. Appropriate protection of children is important and indisputable when they participate in the entertainment industry. Child performers need to be treated with respect and their rights; needs and development must be of primary contemplation. The nature of film financing changed and the corporate sector stepped into movie-making. Many child artists are paid huge and some of them literally work for free to garner name and fame. The little that they are earning goes into maintaining their middle-class family life. In recent times the entertainment industry has seen a sudden boom, with a growth rate of 25 per cent in 2018, the Indian television industry stood second when compared with BRIC and other major developed economies. In 2019, the television market was expected to generate above USD 10 billion in revenue, making it among the biggest industries in India. The numbers are certainly impressive – in terms of the number of films produced each year, Bollywood is firmly on top of the pile with 1,602 in 2012 alone. In 2016, the Government of India amended the act governing child labor and recognized the rights of “child artists.” The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 defines an ‘‘artist’’ as a child who performs or practices any work as a hobby or profession directly involving him as an actor, singer, sportsperson, or in such other activity relating to the entertainment or sports activities. It also lays down rules and regulations that govern the employment of these children. Along with the NCPRC, the act attempts to safeguard the growth and development of a child. A child’s growth and development is a complex issue that includes numerous factors, inter-related to one another and if any growth thought-provoking factor is neglected it could lead to significant worries in the child’s behavior. Child actors or artists are perhaps most vulnerable to fall prey to the vicissitude of time, when they find themselves at the crossroads, unable to find work once their charm wears off. Screen analyses the pitfalls of facing success at an early stage and how these children cope in life later. Children are naïve; directors are thus able to bring a refreshing look to their movie, the audience is regaled by their antics on screen and often empathize with their plight depending on the content of the film, however little or no attention is paid to the psyche of the child, the changes in emotional or behavioral patterns, and the difficulties that the child may go through during the making of the film and once the spotlight shifts from them.
Children are often exposed to unsuitable, anxiety-inducing, and at times, dangerous operational hazards and situations. Many of these problems may be inherent and generic to the industry, but children, unlike their adult counterparts, should not be expected to handle the emotional and physical stress. It needs to be remembered that, by and large, children do not join the industry of their own volition. There is always an adult involved – a parent, or caretaker – who takes the decision for them. In the absence of any monitoring mechanism, there is every likelihood of child actors being exploited when it comes to the number of hours worked per day, and short-changed in terms of educational and safety provisions. Child artists are often immensely appreciated and accepted among the masses while they are still children; however, as they grow up these children are not able to handle the rejection they are put through once the flush of success wanes off. There have been several instances in the past when actors who have been highly successful as child artistes find it difficult to find a place in the industry once their cherubic charm fades away. Similarly, the child artists who saw a lot of limelight and especially the parents who took advantage of this fame, both are in stress since the lockdown is imposed as people have forgotten them, and resuming back to the industry is another struggle for them. In this tug of war, the child is the most compromised factor on various aspects.
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