This is a common scenario: The story demands a kid. A sweet cherubic looking child is scouted and cast and very often becomes the hit element of a movie or show. Then the child star is written into any script and s/he starts to earn enough money to support parents in styles that they have not been accustomed to. Formal schooling, learning, playtime is all sacrificed to the arc lights that blaze into the child’s mind creating an artificial reality. Age creeps up on the kid and the earning capacity gets diminished. When s/he hits the teens they become misfits as they have not interacted with the normal everyday world. Adulation and adoration that they have become used to disappear and their equilibrium with it. Welcome to the world o the child stars who are mere meteors blazing across the firmament of cinema.
These child stars have appeared and disappeared on the silver screen from the time cinema became a great medium of entertainment. In Hollywood, Shirley Temple, was the most popular and famous child star of all time. She began her film career in 1932 at the age of four, received a special Academy Award in February 1935, and gave continuous film hits to the late 1930s. Licensed merchandise like dolls, dishes and clothing were put into the market that capitalized on her image. With adolescence, her charms faded and she left the film industry at 12 to get back to her schooling. She did appear in a few films but retired completely in 1950 at the age of 22. She was the top box-office draw four years in a row.
Today from a baby in arms to nubile girls acting as schoolgirls, cinema, TV and advertising world introduces, promotes and then forgets actors. Young girls, who should be in school and enjoying their childhood, are hidden behind layers of pancake and emoting adult feelings. Boys who should be romping and rolling in sports and the rough play of boyhood are doing dangerous stunts and mouthing inane dialogues.
Singers too of all ages are making it to reality TV and losing the bloom of innocence. They and their parents live on high drama as the eliminations take place episode after episode. Any small talent in a child is obsessively developed by over anxious school teachers and parents in the hope of gaining fame for themselves. Modelling is another field where kids are totally exploited. There is this disturbing trend of using children to promote anything from financial instruments, banks, mobikes, cars and of course junk food. Should Nationalised banks use babies to talk about savings deposits and investment opportunities?
It is not as if prodigies do not exist. Again and again in the field of music, dance and art, literature and sports prodigies are born and take shape. Looking at TV shows, it seems that every second child is one!! Normal, everyday bright children are being pushed to becoming ‘stars’. Their dreams are that of the TV channel and the parents, not their own. The emotional seesaw that they are subjected to in the winning and losing game can be quite traumatic.
Much has been written about the impact of stardom on kids and the psychological scars that they carry for the rest of their childhood. If we can create a hue and cry about child labour that is an important part of sustaining families who are economically backward, why is this high profile, entertainment sector not being controlled by child labour laws?
In the west stringent rules are in place to ensure that child stars do not miss schooling. Production companies are legally responsible for employing tutors to ensure that children keep up with their lessons. In India nobody cares. In fact the scenes that these kids act out often border on child abuse and no activist raise a voice against this. There are enough protests about flags, religious aberrations, caste slurs and ‘moral’ depravity. Not one person stands up and says, NO, this is child abuse, child labour and exploitation of under aged people.
Now a new show will go behind the scenes and to showcase the story of lost innocence and childhood in the glamorous world of entertainment! ‘Haar Jeet’ is going to tell the viewers about the life of kids who become stars and a source of income for their parents and a vehicle to fulfil their unfulfilled dreams. In the process new child stars will be made and the purpose itself will be lost.
Star Light Star bright,
The first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight
Sadly, the stars shine for performing children very briefly. In the harsh daylight of the real world, the stars disappear, the wishes turn to dust. If only their wishes for success would become horses, then beggars may ride!
Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Anu, Ashok, The Old Fossil, Delirious, Gaelikaa, Grannymar, Magpie11, Paul, Maria the Silver Fox, Rummuser , Will Knott, Shackman and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get different flavours of the same topic.