Small steps to the big
Darsheel Safary was recently awarded the Filmfare Critics Award
for Best Performance. Shoma A. Chatterji
says many child artistes, in the past too, have given indelible
performances in Hindi films. While some of them went on to be
successful adult actors, others simply faded away
happened to those
naughty kids who regaled us all in Mr India? Of the many
child actors, Aftab Shivdasani is the only child to have grown
to become a hero. What happened to the two lanky boys from
Gulzarís Kitaab? Master Alankar grew up to become
Alankar. But he could not even scratch the surface of the big
screen as hero. His kid sister, Pallavi, took to television.
Master Raju, the
chubby little face of Amar Prem grew up, did a few
negative roles as an adult actor and faded away. Master Rattan
of Raj Kapoor's Boot Polish went away to Pakistan when he
could not get roles as an adult actor. Baby Naaz (Boot Polish)
managed to get marginal roles when she grew up. She got into
television in mature roles till she passed away. "I had a
horrible childhood," she once confessed in a documentary, Children
of the Silver Screen. "I came back at ten at night to
see my parents tearing each other off. Most of the time, they
did not care whether I had dinner or not. It was terrible,"
and broke into tears.
Of the two boys in
Rajshriís box office hit Dosti, only Sanjay Khan made
it as hero. He resurfaced years later on television with The
Sword of Tipu Sultan. Today, he basks in the reflected glory
of two top stars within the family ó son Zayed Khan and
son-in-law Hrithik Roshan.
It is a hard
struggle for child actors to grow up and become top stars.
Directors drop them when they go through the awkward stage of
adolescence. Scripts do not have adolescent characters to cast
them in. So, when they return after a few years seeking adult
roles, producers turn them away.
Stars like Meena
Kumari and Madhubala who began as child actors could go to the
top because their parents and guardians left no stone unturned
to see that their girls made it big. There was much less
competition then. Madhubala was a child actor for five years
before she played the lead in Neel Kamal (1948). Meena
Kumari made her debut when she was four as Jairajís daughter.
Sridevi was four when she made her debut in Thunaiyan
(1969) in Tamil. At 11, she was the leading lady. She never
I look at my kids Jahnavi and Khushi enjoying their childhood, I
donít miss my younger days. Thatís because I didnít get to
enjoy that phase. You miss something and then lose it. I was too
busy working. But I cherish every moment life gave me when I was
growing up. In my time, roles were written keeping me in mind
though I was just a teenager," reminisces Sridevi.
Almost every child
actor who has become a top star belongs to a film family. This
underscores the fact that it is nearly impossible for a child
actor from outside the industry to become an adult star. Many
star sons have done child roles when they were small.`A0They
grew up to become stars. At six, Shashi Kapoor starred in Jayant
Desaiís Tadbir (1945). His other early acting roles
were in Bhakta Dhruva, Bhakta Gopalbhaiya, Bhakta
Bilwamangal and Veer Babruwahan. He also played the
boy Raj in Awara. Nargis, daughter of Jaddanbai, who
created her own production banner, started her career at 14 in Talashe
Haq and quickly progressed to become a top actress.
When Nutan was 14,
she starred in Hamari Beti, produced and directed by
mother Shobhana Samarth, a famous star-turned-director of her
time.`A0The chubby-faced, cuddly Rishi Kapoor was a teenager
when his father introduced him in Bobby and he became a
star overnight. His wife Neetu Singh, not from a film
background, began at ten and established herself in a double
role in Do Kaliyaan. But she could not shine half as
brightly as an adult star inspite of her talent. Aamir Khan
played one of the three brothers in Yaadon ki Baraat
(1973) under the directorial baton of Naseer Hussain. Like many
star children, Hrithik Roshan made his debut in Aap Ke
Deewane (1980) when he was six. He did a major role in Bhagwan
Dada (1986) with Rajnikanth and Rakesh Roshan. Sanjay Dutt
played a small role in Reshma Aur Shera when he was 12.
All of them are big stars today.
Among child actors
from a non-film background, Tabassum, who played significant
roles in Deedar, Baiju Bawra and Baap Beti,
grew up to make a name for herself not as heroine, but as the
celebrated television anchor of a talk show, Phool Khile Hai
Gulshan Gulshan. Daisy Irani, who, as Master Raja was a bit
hit in films like Ek Hi Raasta, Bandish, etc. quit
the scene when, while playing a maid in Kati Patang, she
was reportedly slapped 27 times by hero Rajesh Khanna who could
not get it right. Her kid sister Honey, also a famous child
actor, did not try adult roles at all. She married Javed Akhtar
to shift later to writing stories for films. Sarika gravitated
to adult roles but has had little scope to prove her tremendous
talent. Sachin did okay in Marathi cinema, but was forced to
shift to television to prove his mettle.
who played a child actor in Shekhar Kapoorís Masoom,
stands tall among her peers. Jugal Hansraj who played her
stepbrother in the same film, is still struggling to get a hold
in Bollywood. Aftab Shivdasani, Kunal Khemu (Hum Hai Rahi
Pyar Ke) and Hansika are the only recent child actors
who have graduated to adult roles and seem to be doing fine. But
whether stardom will elude them or invest them with staying
power at the box office, only time will tell.
|Kunal Khemu in a still from Traffic Signal; Urmila Matondkar played a child actor in Masoom; and, Hrithik Roshan as a child artiste