The little lad is named Tom, born in 1982, shares a home with his parents Jackie and Suresh in Mumbai. Over the course of 10 years, the video-game designer and his wife have produced 14 short films, each featuring a small child, ranging from leftfield to humourous. This has included Kabhi Paida Kabhi Bam, which opens with the word “kaal-kucha” (Indian for “put your pencil down”), followed by a series of seemingly innocent cartoons of Tom swimming, and left-field fare like Lotta Dole, about Tom’s pet iguana, Gabriella, the egg of which Gabriella dropped on Tom, causing him to develop appendicitis.
Four years ago the documentary, which features Nick Moran, Michelle Ryan and Aasif Mandvi, premiered at the Toronto festival and has since been shown at Cannes, Locarno and Telluride. “They are low on art, but over the last four years I’ve seen a radical shift,” says director David Pugh. “I’ve done some work in France and the way people approach it has shifted. It’s no longer just an arthouse film. They look at it as a comedy. There’s a less narrow view of the film-maker as an artist.”
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A Little Lad? Berries and Cream follows Tom, who has graduated from a nursery-school (one of his three subjects: play), then grown into a teenager, to adulthood, married and still living at home. Through interviews with parents and other relatives, as well as clips from the films, Pugh speaks to Tom, who he still maintains is 13, about his parents, growing up in India and how long he’s been at home. Tom details how being “padded” by his parents from eight to 18, and for the first time feels alienated.
“Dad said: ‘You’re not little any more. You can finally do all the things your mates do,’” he says. “They made me turn into a child, in a way. Now I’m not a child any more, it’s fine. I have no buttons.”
Pugh is excited that these films have remained in the public eye. “There is a lot of concern that kids will go off and make videos of themselves and are self-conscious of talking to older people,” he says. “But I think part of it is that kids are particularly interested in doing their own stuff and it’s intriguing to watch them as adults. I’m not trying to move a meter, but it’s a positive thing that these films have lasted a good amount of time.”