Happiness Class

Happiness Class is a journey through the unique and fascinating world of children: their preoccupations, their worries, and most importantly, their idea of happiness. Set in the context of an experimental happiness curriculum inspired by the ideas of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and included as part of formal pedagogy in the schools run by the Delhi government, Happiness Class explores this landscape in schools and diverse neighbourhoods, with resident and refugee families, across the metropolis of New Delhi.

Children speak of their fears, stresses and joys, parents talk of their aspirations for their children, and teachers share their pedagogic experiences in the context of the larger world. Using a range of simple and universal art exercises, the film engages in intimate conversations with children; and together with playful animation sketches the possibilities and challenges of ‘happiness’ being a subject in a school curriculum. In an increasingly competitive world, struggling with the challenges of conflict, segregation and polarisation, the film asks what the pursuit of happiness really means, and what role education can play.

  • Samina Mishra
  • Rajiv Mehrotra
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  • Runtime:
    51 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 31, 2021
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Director Biography - Samina Mishra

Samina Mishra is a documentary filmmaker, writer, and teacher based in New Delhi, with a special interest in media for and about children. Her work uses the lens of childhood, identity and education to reflect the experience of growing up in India, and includes the films The Teacher and The World (2016), Jagriti Yatra (2013), Two Lives (2007), The House on Gulmohar Avenue (2005) and Stories of Girlhood (2001). Her books for children include Hina in Purani Dilli, My Sweet Home: Childhood Stories from a Corner of the City, and Shabana and the Baby Goat among others. She has also created a multi-media exhibition, Home and Away (2004) on second and third generation British Asian children and worked on Nehru’s Children, an archival research project on the archive of the Children’s Film Society of India. Her interest in the ways that the arts can be included in education led her to head programming for two years at the Nehru Learning Centre for Children and Youth, part of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library where she focussed on using the arts in a variety of ways with government school children. She was a Jury Member of the Crossword Children’s Book Award 2013 and 2014, the Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award 2019 for the Non-Fiction category and the SIFFCY – Smile International Film Festival for Children and Youth 2015. She was also a member of the Core Team that conceptualised and designed the Summer Fellowship Programme for Elementary School Teachers (2014 and 2015) at the Regional Resource Centre for Elementary Education, Delhi University. She is currently teaching Film in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Pathways School Noida and collaborating on Torchlight, a web journal on libraries and bookish love, and curating for Half Ticket, the children’s section at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. She also runs The Magic Key Centre for the Arts and Childhood, a virtual resource centre for children as well as adults working with and for children. Her most recent work includes Jamlo Walks, a picture book that tells a story of the migrants walking back home during the lockdown last year, and Happiness Class, a a documentary that explores the idea of happiness seen through the Happiness Curriculum project in the Delhi government schools.

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Director Statement

My work focusses on creating space for children’s voices, that have been marginalized for long particularly in mainstream media, so that we can include them in our conversations about of the world and develop a more nuanced understanding. Happiness Class comes from this approach and presents the story of this intervention in the Delhi government schools as more than the binary positions of success and superficiality allow. The Happiness Curriculum was introduced as a pause in the school day that would facilitate the strengthening of children’s inner resources to cope with stress. But for children who come from difficult socio-economic circumstances with precarious everydays, can this pause be enough? The curriculum seeks to build empathy across differences but as I talked to children, it became clear that for it to be truly meaningful, there is a need to focus on teachers’ perspectives - their ability to really know the students and their diverse contexts, and ways of bringing those lived experiences into classroom discussions. Are the teachers being supported to do all that? The film uses a collage of stylistic approaches - the more conventional documentary interview, the arts exercises with children to facilitate intimate conversations, animation that acts as visual commentary - to provoke a deeper and more considered engagement with the ideas of childhood and education.