New Delhi: A child artiste is defined by the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (CALPRA) 1986as a child who performs and practises any work as a hobby or profession directly involving them as an actor, singer, or sportsperson, or is engaged in activities related to entertainment or sports. No child shall be allowed to work more than five hours a day and for no more than three hours without rest, according to this Act. However, directors and casting agencies have broken the law, and most children, uninformed of law, have continued to work for 9-10 hours or even 12 hours straight.
According to a study conducted by Child Rights and You (CRY), children working in the entertainment industry are harmed by lengthy unpredictable hours without relaxation and a lack of care for education and regular schooling in pursuit of money and fame.RiddhiLohe, a child artiste, has worked in a few movies, but is mainly recognised for Acme (2016) and Wanyamanus (2015). While talking to The Sunday Guardian, she said, “I started doing small roles, movies and commercials at the age of 5. I used to work for nine hours straight and I don’t remember getting tired very often. I was a kid back then, so I hardly remember anything but everyone around me was quite supportive.”
Speaking of the mental health of her daughter, her mother, Swati Lohe said, “She is a brilliant kid and is quite mature. She was pampered by other crew members on the set. I remember she was always surrounded by people and she loved doing what she did. I have seen her working long hours and that also worried me so I used to advise her to take breaks in between.” The pandemic, has changed Riddhi’s outlook on life; she enjoys playing the piano, but wishes to pursue a career in psychiatry. She has maintained her passion for music. She had to miss school on several occasions due to filming schedules, but she was able to keep up with her schoolwork.
“Child artistes are often the invisible victims of child labour. They enter an adult world without the requisite support and care and safeguards that should be in place and are ignored by all stakeholders, including parents. Having laws in place for these children is futile unless there is a commitment from all stakeholders to ensure the rights of these children,” KreeanneRabadi, the regional director of CRY (West), said.
The number of child artistes in India is unknown. Child artistes working in the audio-visual entertainment industry, such as advertising, cinema, television, or sports, are exempt from child labour rules, as long as they receive a continuous education and their safety measures are ensured. However, many child artistes have to drop out of their schools but the scenario has changed now. “They often miss their schools due to shooting schedules, but after the pandemic, due to the hybrid education mode, most of the classes are online. So when they attend classes, we keep a duplicate (another young artist of the same height and body type) and shoot them from behind. However, as a technician, I can say we overwork as I have seen many child artistes throwing tantrums and don’t give shots, ultimately the whole shooting schedule gets delayed,” said a cameraman, who wished to stay anonymous, and has worked with several child artistes. Most of the well-being is taken care of by their parents and they often bring food from home many times, foods are also provided on the sets. There are several instances where children often work for their parents’ dreams to come true. “I have seen parents forcing their children to go for interviews but this is not always the case. Till the age of 13, we find the availability of child artistes easily, but once they hit puberty, it gets difficult for the parents to control them. These days, middle-class parents focus on ensuring that their children must secure good scores in board examinations and acting is a secondary option for their children,” an assistant Director, Amit, told this paper.
“The crew members, including directors and actors, keep children entertained. The working hours depend on movies, and commercials; once the artistes finish their shots, they are free to roam around and study,” Amit said.