Are Child Actors missing their childhood ?

Child actors on television shows work 12-14 hours, are irregular with school and barely get any play time. Is this the price of fame? TOI explores

Family dramas are incomplete without kids. On the small screen, almost every other show has child actors in pivotal roles — from Anandi (Avika Gor) of Balika Vadhu, Ginny (Aashika Bhatia) and Rocky (Tapasvi Mehta) in Parvarrish – Kuchh Khattee Kuchh Meethi, Bulbul (Khushi Verma) in Kya Hua Tera Vaada, Nanhi (Ashnoor Kaur) in Na Bole Tum… Na Maine Kuch Kaha, to Peehu ( Amruta Mukherjee) in Bade Achhe Lagte Hain and twins Anand and Anand (Anmol and Apurva Jyotir) in Parichay. However, the work hours of these child actors has shot up with increasing competition. They work for 12-14 hours, miss school and even play-time.

With gruelling work hours and pressure of studies, are these children missing out on their childhood and all it is meant to encompass? Here are some facts: Aashika Bhatia in Parvarrish… is 13 years old. She spends around 12 hours on the sets to perfect her role. Her mother Meenu Bhatia says going to school everyday is not possible for her daughter. “There is a special tutor who comes home to teach her during her weekly offs,” she says. When Aashika does attend school, she leaves at 8 am and returns at 2 pm. “As soon as she’s back, I take her to the sets. The shooting starts immediately and sometimes goes on till midnight or even 2 am,” says Meenu.

Of course, an added attraction, apart from being on television, is that they end up getting paid ` 10,000-12,000 per day; and these kids generally shoot for a minimum of 25-27 days. Actor and producer Bhairavi Raichura feels that parents can get ambitious and push their kids as they earn more than newcomers in the industry. “I have worked closely with child artist Avika. As the show revolved around her, she had to shoot for long hours,” says she, adding, “I think it is solely a parent’s responsibility to put a clause that ‘my child won’t work beyond these many hours and will not miss school’.”

Eleven-year-old Khushi Verma who plays the role of Bulbul, Mona Singh’s elder daughter in Kya Hua…, is usually immersed in her school books in between takes. “Who doesn’t mind seeing their children on television? Today people recognise us as her parents and it feels good when your child gets so much recognition at an early age,” reasons her father Arun.
But such recognition might come with a price. Tapasvi Mehta (19) looks back at his years as a child actor: “Sometimes I feel my life has become too monotonous. I have no friends as I’m constantly juggling work and studies.”

How do the children cope with this early exposure to media and immense work pressure? According to producer Sudhir Sharma of Na Bole Tum…, there are strict guidelines for child artists and it is the duty of the makers to ensure that the children aren’t taxed too much. “As per the guidelines from the controlling body for child artists, they are not supposed to shoot during school hours. “Anybody violating this law can face serious consequences,” says he.

At the end, it is the adage that ‘you lose some, you gain some’ which applies here, feels Bhairavi. “The special attention which these child artists get, motivates them to work hard and put in extra efforts. They do miss their social life but that is the price one has to pay as a star,” adds Bhairavi.

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