Starring: Arjun Jaykrishna, Naseeruddin Shah, Tom Alter
Director: Virendra Saini
Foto, an introverted 11-year-old boy, prefers to dwell in his world of imagination. When a film crew arrives in town, Foto’s creativity takes wings.
In her now legendary TED talk, The Power of Introverts, Susan Cain speaks about the dominant culture predisposed to undervalue introverts. Our principal establishments like offices, educational and religious institutions are designed for extroverts. Cain recalled her time at a school summer camp where her not being chatty and outgoing was considered NOT okay. Introversion is often misconstrued as a personality disorder, and introverts are made to feel inadequate and prompted to come out of their shells.
In Virendra Saini’s Foto, the eponymous character (Krishna) is a soft-spoken, reserved boy with a vivid imagination, who struggles with studies and at making friends. Amidst admonitions and snickers, the young boy finds encouragement from his mother, Shefali (played graciously by Geeta Agarwal Sharma), who has the prudence to identify with his creativity. In fact, the boy is named so for his penchant for imagery.
Support and positive reinforcement and essentials of good parenting. In his maiden venture Kabhi Paas, Kabhi Fail (2009), too, Saini had greatly emphasized it. In Foto, when Foto’s teachers raise concern about something being “wrong” with him, Shefali shuts it down politely. Instead she has an interesting conversation with her son about his ideas and suggests a pragmatic way to channel his creativity.
When a film crew arrives in his town for a shoot, Foto’s imagination finds a footing. He is dazzled by the world of props, colors, sets, sound and music, and the miracle workers who could make it thunder and rain in a jiffy.
Armed with a copy of David Robinson’s The History of World Cinema and guidance from his ‘magician’ friend, Foto learns about cinema history, landmarks films and the various aspects of film-making. Foto’s flight of fantasy is often disrupted by a skeptic from the Imagination Detection & Prevention Squad, but the young learner chugs along.
As the shy, inventive Foto, Arjun Jaykrishna is a natural. The twinkle in his eyes and sweet-sounding voice reminds one of the cherubic Jugal Hansraj. Interestingly, Foto’s magician friend is played by Naseeruddin Shah. Ambling around in the idyllic splendour of Ranikhet, his delightful conversations with Arjun are strangely reminiscent of the ones in Masoom (1983). The warmth and the charming unhurried pace Shah brings to his unnamed character is a reminder of the gifted actor he is. The film is also peppered with cameos from several familiar faces, with a special mention to theatre veteran Uday Chandra as the skeptic.
Foto in essence is an ode to cinema and the dreamers who dared to create the magical world of motion picture, and would resonate with anyone who has a love affair with the movies.
National Film Award for Best Children’s Film (Year 2007)