Art & Entertainment

'First Act' Director Deepa Bhatia: Hope Industry, Parents Rethink How They Deal With Child Artists

Director Deepa Bhatia hopes that her new docu-series "First Act" helps people in the Hindi entertainment industry and parents introspect their behaviour towards child artists.

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First Act director Deepa Bhatia
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Director Deepa Bhatia hopes that her new docu-series "First Act" helps people in the Hindi entertainment industry and parents introspect their behaviour towards child artists.

The six-episode series, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, sheds light on the challenges child actors face while starting out in the industry. Bhatia has written and directed the show with her actor-filmmaker husband, Amole Gupte, serving as a creative producer.

"If the show can help them think about how they negotiate and deal with children, how kind and understanding they can be, and how much room they should give to children to do their own thing, that for me will be a mission accomplished,” Bhatia told PTI in an interview.

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The filmmaker said the idea for “First Act” originated in 2017 as she kept meeting parents of child actors while working on Gupte’s films. She started researching and began filming for the docu-series in 2019.

As part of her research, the editor-filmmaker met child artists, parents, casting directors, casting coordinators, besides doing the rounds of Aaram Nagar, a locality in suburban Mumbai, where auditions usually take place.

"I interviewed kids, who are acting, and you see a pattern like they often work for long hours, how they struggle to get a part, or how they are cheated or not, and if it’s a parental dream or not,” Bhatia, whose son Partho Gupte has acted in Gupte's films such as “Stanley Ka Dabba” and “Hawaa Hawaai”, said.

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"But all this is not necessarily associated with negativity and pressure. I can have a dream but I can be gentle with my child, so it depends case to case."

Bhatia, who previously directed and produced the critically-acclaimed documentary “Nero’s Guests: The Age of Inequality” on farmer suicides in Maharashtra, said she initially wanted to make a feature film but realised that a documentary would portray the reality of a child artist's life in a better way.

"We felt this should be explored like a documentary, where you go on the ground and check what is going on. I went with my cameraman and had conversations with people...

“In a documentary, you don’t go with preconceived notions. You see what happens, and that becomes the truth that you try to convey. The idea was to be with the families and understand what they go through, speak to people from the industry, and reflect that in the most honest manner,” she added.

“First Act” features former child artists who have transitioned into lead actors, including Sarika, Jugal Hansraj, Parzaan Dastur, Darsheel Safary, and “Slumdog Millionaire” child star Azharuddin, among others. It offers a peek into their life after the initial fame.

Bhatia also interviewed filmmakers like Gupte, Shoojit Sircar, casting directors Mukesh Chhabra, Honey Trehan, and Tess Joseph, who have worked closely with child artists during the course of their careers.

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The director revealed that she is developing a high-school series for the over-the-top platform with Gupte, which they both will direct.

“That age-group really fascinates us, like eighth-tenth class kids, they are so beautiful, complicated and amazing,” she said.

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