A TEHELKA story sounded alarm bells about the state of child actors, and now the NCPCR has issued a revised set of guidelines
EARLIER THIS year, TEHELKA carried a story on child actors in the Indian television industry (Sets, Lies and Homework, 14 May 2011). In the story, Nishita Jha explored the lives of four child actors (Ulka Gupta ofJhansi Ki Rani, Jannat Rahmani of Phulwa, Ashnoor Kaur of Shobha Somnath Ki and Rahul Pendkalkar, who has appeared in over 11 television serials, 11 feature films and 70 commercials). TEHELKA spoke to their families, colleagues and agents to get a sense of the precarious balance between childhood and adult professionalism that these children occupy. The story highlighted the facts that child actors often miss out on a significant portion of their education, undergo various physically and emotionally stressful situations, and lose their innocence in the race to earn bigger and bigger salaries for their parents. The worrying aspects of the story were that these child artistes rarely join the industry of their own volition, and that gruelling shooting schedules can be seen as being exploitative, especially since the children themselves are unable to access their own salaries.
Last week, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) issued a revised set of guidelines for child actors in the television industry. The revised guidelines state: “Children, unlike their adult counterparts, should not be expected to handle the strenuous, emotional and physical stress of the industry.” The directives to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting include the following, all of which were first pointed out in TEHELKA’s story: No child should be cast in a role or situation that is inappropriate to the child or that may distress him/her or put him/her in embarrassing situations; no child should be put in distressing situations to obtain a more realistic depiction of an emotional reaction. There should be age-appropriate regulation on the number of hours a child can shoot in a day. The participation of children in recorded or live entertainment programmes should preferably be done on holidays so that the child does not miss school. Further, travel arrangements should be made for the child and no child should be allowed to travel without his/her parent or another person authorised in writing by the parent of the concerned child. Finally, to exclude all possibilities of financial manipulation, a minimum of 50 percent of the payment must be set aside for children in fixed deposits or bonds that mature when they reach the age of 18 years.