Actor Mukesh Khanna best known for his part as India’s own super-hero Shaktimaan is the chairperson of the Children’s Film Society Of India(CFSI). He discusses his connectivity with kids and his vision of a children-friendly cinema with Subhash K Jha
In a country where children’s films are almost non-existent you seem to have inherited a thankless job?
A huge responsibility has been placed on my shoulder. And I think I am up to it.I had been offered various other positions. I was even offered the chance to contest elections. But no, that wasn’t my scene. I didn’t have time to give to politics, so I declined. I didn’t want to cheat on my job. I said yes to this because I feel strongly about entertainment for children.Yes, I’ve noticed that in India we consider children’s film to be a minor thing. I never thought like that.
Your connection with children is very strong because of Shaktimaan?
I made Shaktimaan specially for children.To this day I am asked to play Shaktimaan again by children everywhere. In my opinion entertainment for kids must be treated on a par with what’s done for adults. I feel we don’t give the same importance to children’s entertainment as the Western audience.
In what way?
We feel children only need to be sermonized. Children must be entertained first. Only then will they accept the message that you want to convey . This is what I did in Shaktimaan. I implored children to drink milk. But that isn’t the only thing we did on the serial.I only felt films for children in this country were not good enough. Now it’s my turn to do something about it.
What do you have in mind?
I remember once I was in jury to judge children’s films.Many members of the jury complained that there were no theatres for children’s films. My response that was, ‘Why ask for theatres for children? Why not make such films that exhibitors come to you for children’s films?’I remember Amitabh Bachchan singing Mere paas aao mere dost for kids in Mr Natwarlal.Kids forced their parents to see the film. I want to do exactly that. Gets kids interested in films.
Ever thought of turning Shaktimaan into a feature film?
Yes ,I am in the process of making it into a film, perhaps a trilogy.Long back I wanted to make it into a 70 mm extravaganza. But I didn’t have 150 crore rupees.Hrithik Roshan’s father and Shah Rukh Khan had that kind of money.So they made Krissh and Ra.One.
Shaktimaan had amazing reach?
I remember suggesting a Shaktimaan toy to a global toy company. But it didn’t happen. Eventhough the serial ran for a good 7 years. We lack the enterprising spirit. If Shaktimaanhad happened in the US it’d have been a franchise.
Before Shaktimaan your were known as Bhishma Pitamah?
Let me tell you, Mukesh Khanna is very different from other artistes.I firmly believe the actor’s image is very important to him. That I am known as two strong characters to this day long after the serials are over is a measure of how strong an impact these characters made. I played Shaktimaan on television to break away from the bearded father’s image in movies.I played everyone’s father from Feroz Khan to Shah Rukh Khan. I did Shaktimaan to show the world what Mukesh Khanna looks like without a beard.But Bishma Pitamahand Shaktimaan both continue to chase me.Unlike other actors who played mythological characters like Rama or Krishna I wasn’t trapped by my image. Rather , the image liberated me.
You recently did another serial Pyar Ka Dard Hai?
Yes, I gave that up after a while. I realized this Saas-Bahu routine was not for me. I quit the serial after two and a half years.I had to keep dancing with 20 others actors for every festival . That wasn’t my scene. But it was good while it lasts.
Enthused by the new responsibility?
I am really looking forward to doing something that kids can see. I was on the jury for the National awards once. I saw jury members walk out of children’s films. If they couldn’t sit through films meant for children how can children be expected to sit through them?