Upcoming Bollywood action flick Zokkomon casts child star Darsheel Safary, 15, once more into the lime light after his acting debut in Taare Zameen Par aged 11. Child actors sometimes face a tough burden, being placed in the public eye early and potentially having their childhood disrupted.
A chirpy Safary sounded entirely unfazed. Of his experience working on set, “It was amazing, I had Jackie Chan’s stunt director (William Ong) directing my stunts”. Safary also kept up with school work and, despite the film’s commitments, performed well in his exams. “I had a teacher on set and my friends kept me up to date with the work I missed.”
Safary’s friends also played an important role in helping him deal with fame. “Sometimes I get annoyed with the attention in public and my friends and family help me out. My friends understand my situation and the best part is they never hype my presence.”
Director Amol Gupte, whose upcoming movie Stanley Ka Dabba features a cast of around five-hundred children, was careful not to disturb his child casts’ experience of growing up. He followed a policy of shooting only on Saturday to avoid coinciding with school, meaning the production took 18 months to film. He had advice for his youthful cast. “I cautioned them to treat this experience as knowledge and not as a route to stardom.”
Actor Jugal Hansraj, who was catapulted into fame aged nine in Masoom and starred as a child in later films Karma and Sultanat, has fond recollections of his child acting. “It was one of the greatest memories of my life, I didn’t miss any of my childhood and forgot about it when I grew up” he recalled.
Thanks to her parents, actor Sana Saeed, who starred alongside SRK when she was nine in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, had a similarly unobtrusive time as a child actor. “When you’re that small you don’t know what you’re doing so your parents play an important role. My mum made sure I didn’t miss school and I would only do movies in holidays and over weekends.”
Having acted from age three, Saeed, 23, treated her roles as a hobby. “Child actors are so small that they don’t think about it being a career. It gives you confidence and might be a crazy back-up option but I did an advertising diploma afterwards and worked in a client-servicing department. It’s only recently I’ve wanted to get back into acting.”
Hansraj thinks child actors benefit from pressure-free environments. “Kids should be treated like kids and not behave too much, they are playing their part as children and should act straight from the heart.”