By Rahul Chandawarkar
Published: Friday 31 December 2004

Chakachak Directed by Sai Paranjpye 90 minutes 2004

Environmental degradation has a new champion in Sai Paranjpye. The noted director of brilliant films like Sparsh, Chashme Buddoor and Katha has a forte for turning serious "development" subjects into thought-provoking yet thoroughly enjoyable cinema (as seen in her Angootha Chhap on adult literacy). She has now come up with a spanking new children's film on environmental conservation.

Titled Chakachak , the film revolves around the activities of a group of eight children. Apurva, Ranjit, Shyamu, Charu, Mishti, Naushad, Jugnu and Dhishum are appalled by the increasing environmental degradation of their city. Everywhere they go, they only see dirt, squalor and more environmental abuse. Filthy playgrounds, crowded roads, noisy neighbourhoods, blaring loudspeakers, polluted water, smoky skies and ever increasing heaps of garbage seem to be choking their existence.

To make matters worse, there are some villains afoot as well! Gundappan (played by actor Parikshit Sahni, who is also a member of an environment group in Mumbai), manufactures counterfeit notes, with some help from a set of cronies who come with musical names like Bhola-Dhola and Kawwa-Tawwa-Chiwwa (reminiscent of Ray), played by Aditya Lakhia, Atul Parchure and comedians Asrani and Paintal. The confrontation of the children with this gang gives the film a lively touch. They also have a friend, philosopher and guide in a mystic called Zadu Baba (Madhu), who elucidates the benefits of a clean environment and encourages them to continue the good work.

Soon, the children form the Chakachak Toli to clean up and influence the neighbourhood about the merits of environment protection. They start the segregation of dry and wet wastes, make vermicompost pits, get the parents to use cloth bags and prevent littering at bus stops. They even pick up brooms to assist municipal staff in cleaning the streets. In the process, not only their surroundings, but more difficult, the mindset of the neighbourhood is transformed.

Paranjpye's strategy of putting the children firmly at the forefront of this campaign gives the issue of environmental protection a significant direction forward. Children nowadays think, feel and act strongly and are a definite voice in each household, from choosing the family vehicle to saying no to crackers. When they take up issues, they do have the power to create change for the better. As Paranjpye told the audience during the premier of the film, "I have made the film with children, because only they are now capable of leading the fight against environmental degradation in this country. The adults have failed miserably."

Funded appropriately by the Pune Municipal Corporation and the Petroleum Conservation and Regulation Authority, among others, the fun-filled film was premiered on Children's Day simultaneously in Mumbai and Pune. The film is now slated to have a Delhi and Mumbai release in December. Don't miss it!

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