Loss of innocence

Avid fans of old Hindi film songs find it hard to resist their call in the busiest of times. So when the song, “Humko man ki shakti dena,” from the movie ‘Guddi’ played on a music channel some time ago, all work was suspended and the video watched with happy memories.

Often sung at our morning assembly just as it is depicted in the movie, Gulzar’s meaningful lyrics, Vani Jairam’s clear voice and Vasant Desai’s classical composition was a much-loved song in school. Later, when Doordarshan obliged to screen the movie, the antics of the headmistress and the latecomer student were enjoyed with mirth.

This time, however, my attention was drawn to the others featured of the song – rows of little boys in front and older girls behind them, all standing with folded hands and closed eyes, singing along with the female protagonist. The earnest expression on these faces was telling –  that scene directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee immortalises a child’s belief in the power of the prayer and the implicit trust in the people around it.

Today’s child is conscious of the camera. Is this an attribute of a smarter generation or poor guidance from the adults around them? Children who endorse products are acceptable when they play themselves in the advertisement. One online retail shopping portal started the trend of making children act as adults in a cutesy fashion.

Unfortunately, the success of the ads made them tread a dangerous path. One of the subsequent advertisements showed two male children – corporate employees sharing a water-cooler moment – falling silent and eyeing a female (child) employee who comes into their line of vision. The implications were unmistakable but an adult has directed the children to enact the part.

Adult creators of children’s animation films now include double entendre dialogues meant for the older viewer. This confuses the younger generation about the child, the child-adult, the adult and those in-between. A baffling emphasis of a teenager or a twenty-something being a king (the “dil maange more” and “I want it now” taglines) makes every impressionable child grow up double-quick.

The general mantra is that the youngster is entitled to anything that he wants and can take it without any scruples. And so in an extreme case a juvenile whose ‘dil’ wants more and who wants it now, thinks nothing of committing an adult crime – a crime that harms and kills, a crime that demands his/her removal from a civilised society.

What is perceived as ‘civilised’ society is already membered with perverse adults who perpetrate horrible crimes on helpless children. If that is active abuse, creative expression that absolves itself of the responsibility of unleashing the basest and most undesirable facets of humans is passive and insidious poison. Do these evangelists of so-called modern and progressive thinking who seek to influence impressionable minds even understand Gulzar’s lyrics: “Doosron ki jai se pehle khud ko jai karein”?

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