HOW AN INTENSE CHILD CAN CHANGE ALL YOUR PLANS
Mishka is our first-born and she is 7 now. Getting her into a movie hall to enjoy a movie has been a very big challenge. I know most people would find merit in complaining about their child’s eating habits or that they are glued to the screen; but this was our unique challenge. Every time we tried to get her to watch a movie after she turned 5 (till that time we weren’t so keen), something would go wrong. And this was important because the husband and I were fond of movies. The only things she watched on the screen so far were Peppa Pig and Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood. If you haven’t watched the latter, it’s a sweet one, almost belonging to a different generation with old-fashioned values of caring for friends and family.
The Jungle Book, our first attempt, was too loud – we were barely inside for 5 minutes – and then we were out. This happened a few more times and then we decided to start small – maybe on the television. ‘Love per square foot’ the first Indian original on Netflix was also Mishka’s first movie in the real sense (the only reason being I really wanted to catch it as it was a dear friend’s project.) This went by smoothly, maybe because it was about adult people with grown up issues and didn’t seem real enough.
And then we tried ‘A dog’s way home’ after so many other children seemed to enjoy it. She saw most of the movie sobbing in my lap, closing her eyes and ears alternately. I kept telling her that we can go back home. But she insisted that it was ok and she had to find out what happens to the dog ultimately. It was both a sensory overload and too sentimental. And of course, the fact that children like her can ask you a question every 2 mins literally kills the joy for you. And after we’re done with a movie, she’ll spend the next 2 days researching on the actors, their actual names, the other roles they have played, how does it feel to play these different characters and so on. So, I am not sure this project on making Mishka like movies is a good idea anymore – maybe I should just sneak in some movies into our schedule without letting her know.
Surma and Dangal were two sports movies we thought she might like, both based on real characters, of which I’ve only watched for the first 15 mins or so. In the former, the lead character gets shot and in the second the sport itself seemed too violent to enjoy. By now we had figured that only one of us can stay back to watch an entire movie.
And then we made a big mistake – Hachi, A dog’s tale. (spoiler alert) It seemed like a harmless movie to begin with. And suddenly the lead character, the father suffers a stroke and dies. And his dog Hachi spends the rest of his life between their home and station waiting for the father to show up. The movie has such a quiet pace that it very deceptively sneaks up on you and without any warning, it wrenches your gut out. And for some reason I kept thinking that M will not perceive it that way. That she will not be consumed by the grief because sensorially it was still going at a very meditative pace. But she got it and it bothered her deeply to say the least. And the thing with children like her is you can’t distract them. They have to get to the bottom of everything before they decide to let it go. So, we had to stay with the movie, research on the dog, what breed, why did it happen, was it a true story and so on. Since then I have made it a point to check at least 5 reviews before we watch a movie, apart from the rating. So deep is the impact, that she still refuses to name the movie. She refers it to as ‘that dog movie’ we can’t name.
Stuart Little – Now, what can really go wrong with that? It’s a rat and an animated one at that. No, but it has to go spiralling down the sink taking along with it all our hopes of enjoying a light-hearted family movie.
You know, the animated movies can be more heart breaking than the regular fare. I am not sure if M is more affected by real actors vis a vis animated creatures, considering they are more believable. With the limited number of movies she’s seen so far, almost everything seems to be overly affecting.
Mathematicians and Scientists are her thing. So, we thought we’ll catch Super 30, when it hit the screens, which is about a mathematician who wants to teach poor kids to crack the JEE. 20 mins. By now we have given up on watching any movie beyond the first 30 mins.
Mission Mangal was an exception. But OMG the questions that came with it. Watching the movie, but missing most of it because you’re answering the incessant questions, is as good as not watching. I might still have watched only 30 mins in reality.
Since then we have had a few successes. But the reason we started this project, which was to enjoy movies together as a family, no longer holds. It’s a completely different mission now. M could benefit from watching movies that will help her navigate through her own social and emotional upsets. Just like reading books can be therapeutic, movies can be too. So that’s what’s become of the fun family time. More on this in a separate note.