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'Balak Palak' is a Marathi film which delves - with a great deal of humour and compassion - into adolescent curiosity about sex.
When filmmaker Ravi Jadhav's son turned 13, he was full of questions about himself. Why was he suddenly shooting up? Why was he vaguely uncomfortable with girls he had played since he was a toddler?
Jadhav had the answers of course but Atharva's questions made him squirm nevertheless. The father-son chat was not an easy one but the rite of passage gave him food for creative thought. He came up with an idea for a film BP - Balak Palak. The film talks about the growing up pangs of teenagers and the need for sex education.
"I felt uncomfortable answering him. And that was the time when I decided to take up this subject seriously and get out of this zone of embarrassment," says Jadhav, who has had two big Marathi commercial hits, Balgandharva and Natarang, to his credit.
BP deals with teen curiosity about sex. It shows a group of youngsters trying to seek answers to their questions and their adventures - some of them comic - on this quest.
Jadhav began his research by visiting schools and interacting with adolescent children. He spoke to teachers who taught students in this age group too. "During my interaction, I realised that not just my son, all children his age were curious about the opposite sex. They find few answers at home or school and end up looking for blue films and porn videos, " says Jadhav who also co-produced the film along with actor Riteish Deshmukh.
Jadhav says that parents must answer questions about budding sexuality the moment they are asked. "I did not strike up a conversation with my son even when he asked. That was a mistake. But, I thought to myself, that other parents must be warned not to repeat my mistake and that's exactly what 'BP' is all about. Conversation with students, be it student-teacher or parent-child, is important at this age to ensure that children do not head in a wrong direction, " he says.
The tagline of the film - "It's time to talk" - sums it all. Jadhav said that when he was going through the same stage, he had a wise friend to guide him.
Sex education is a touchy topic in most societies. How much information, how to convey it, where to draw the line - these are questions that parents and teachers have to deal with.
"Dealing with the topic academically would not help. It has to be handled emotionally and with delicacy. Teachers shy away from talking about sex even when it is a lesson in a text book. The best way is to converse and educate, " he says.
Ritiesh Deshmukh decided to produce the film the moment he saw the rushes. "He was shooting abroad and we were generally chatting when he asked me what I was doing. I told him about BP. Ritiesh almost fell off his chair in astonishment. He said it was a bold topic and he was keen to read the screenplay. He read it and loved it. Then he saw the rushes and was impressed. That is how he joined the team. " The film, which does not have any celebrity stars, will be released next month.
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