Monday, April 2, 2012

My favourite children’s films

The wonderful Memsaab has revived my interest in children’s films made in India, so here’s a little list of my own favourites, in no particular order. Recommendations are most welcome. Free DVDs of recommended movies are even more welcome.

Mind, some of these films might not be ‘children’s films’ in the strictest sense of the word; it’s more like a list of films you could enjoy with your kids - films that are intelligent enough to appeal to adults while simple and interesting enough for kids, and which they won’t feel embarrassed about when they grow up.

Kitaab (1977)

‘Mera Jahan’ song from Taare Zameen Par reminds me of this movie. A sensitive tale of a preteen boy who runs away from home - played to perfection by Master Raju, who by now had become a veteran of sorts, and Gulzaar, who remains the master of sensitive story-telling. The sweet-and-scary adventure of the runaway boy and the various people he meets on the way is intercut with his worried guardians’ search for him, and flashbacks of his life at home and in school.

What I love about this film is the way it portrays the sensitivity, imagination, angst and wickedness of growing children. The journey of young Raju is also a journey of growing up - the boy who crooned the whacky ‘VIP Underwear Baniyan’ song along with his friends in class is also capable of taking offence when a classmate passes a remark on his gorgeous elder sister, and shedding a tear of affection when he hears the familiar voice of a beggar singing in a passing train.

And the Dhanno song - don’t miss that.
(Updated: Detailed review on here)

Chhota Chetan (1984)

Please try to get hold of the 80’s version, not the 1998 edition spiced up with bits of Urmila Matondkar and add-on Anu Malik songs. The original Malayali version is funny, adventurous, dark and engaging despite some annoying bits and pieces flying in your face to remind you that this was a 3D film. How Dilip Tahil ended up playing the drunken dad in this film, I will never figure out.

Ajooba (1991)

Peddled as an Arabian Nights like fantasy, this Indo-Russian production directed by Shashi Kapoor has magic, magicians, Sultans, animals, masked crusader, zany costumes, palaces, a naughty princess, shrinking heroes dancing in wine cups, robotic Shaitan, lost-and-found kids, dolphin foster moms, more animals, more magic and a lot more fun. If this needs any more selling, check out Memsaab’s lovely review.

Makdee (2002)

Vishal Bharadwaj’s masterful direction and superb performances by Shabana Azmi and Shweta Prasad to a script packed with very believable characters - even the witch seems very plausible in the context of the film - make for an exciting and scary tale. I loved Makrand Deshpande in this one, but most importantly, Shweta in a dual role really steals the show. For that matter, when was the last time we saw a kid pull off a dual role? (No, not Neetu Singh in Do Kaliyan.) Parts of the film are genuinely scary, and much of the second half is very sad, but the story never gets boring.

(Updated: Click here for Memsaab's review and here for Filmi Geek's. Also by the same blogger, a more Shabana-centred review here. There are too many good reviews out there, actually, but don't bother. Just go and watch the film.)

Mahek (2007)

I love this film for its cute little homage to To Kill a Mocking Bird (the novel, at least - yet to see the film), and its digs at what passes as children’s films in India - “hum umr mein chhote hain, aql mein nahin!” Direction by Pune’s own Kranti Kanade is straight from the heart, if a little rough around the edges. Still, the story of a 12-year-old girl trying to find herself is sweet and engaging, helped by a splendid guest appearance by Lalan Sarang as the no-nonsense Fairy Godmother. This film really deserves to be watched more. The titular role is played by Shreya Sharma, the girl from Vishal Bharadwaj’s The Blue Umbrella.

Chamatkar (1992)

Again, children might not have been the originally intended audience for this film, but like most of Bollywood's attempts at comedy, little boys are girls are perhaps best disposed to appreciate its humor. I know this because I was 10 when my dad took me to watch Chamatkar, and I loved it. Also, while this was almost his first big screen outing* I was already a Shah Rukh Khan fan thanks to Circus, so liking the film was easy.

This film has Naseeruddin Shah in one of those mainstream roles he does to earn his bread, played with good humor and a perpetual chuckle in his voice. It also has Urmila in one of her earliest leading roles, and a young Ashutosh Gowarikar playing baddie. Most importantly, it has a fun song where a gang of girls put garish make-up on a hapless Shah Rukh, a ghost of a gangster playing Jadoo-like magical guardian angel to nice guy, catfight between Urmila and Guddi Maruti, a street magic show, the most fun-packed fashion show ever, a fate-deciding cricket match with flying cricketers (Koi Mil Gaya has much to thank this movie for), and lots of crazy fun moments with your friendly invisible ghost. Even more importantly, it has Shammi Kapoor!


Not bothered with detailed reviews of any of the films here, will add links to good online reviews if possible.


Memsaab figures rather heavily in the links here, because much of my time these days is spent browsing her amazing blog. And those are some of the best reviews of any films anywhere, so don't mind.

* Shah Rukh Khan actually got three almost simultaneous releases that year - Chamatkar, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman and Deewana, so there wasn't really one big screen debut for him.


  1. Nice list, I don't think I have seen the first two or the last one, will look for them! I always love Master Raju :) Loved The Blue Umbrella and Makdee.

  2. Do watch them Memsaab, I'd love to know what you think about those films.

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