Twinkling 'lil' stars corner the limelight

Mar 17, 2007 Arpana


New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) "Twinkle twinkle little star..." the popular children's ditty aptly describes the new child actors who are shining on filmdom's firmament. The recent one to join the list is Sri Lankan actor Sarala.

In Deepa Mehta's Oscar-nominated "Water" she is simply sensational. As eight-year-old child widow Chuhiya, Sarala outshines all the other actors by infusing her role with a gritty reality. It's almost impossible to think of "Water" without her.

"She's an amazingly natural talent and has truly become the heroine of 'Water'," Mehta was quoted as saying about Sarala who is pitted against veterans like Manorama, Seema Biswas and Rahguveer Yadav.

In the film about the plight of widows in pre-independent India, Chuhiya's husband dies when she is just a child. According to tradition-bound Hindu social norms, she has to spend the rest of her life in a widow's ashram to atone for the sins that caused her husband's untimely death. When she is dumped to cope up with the dark and depressing surroundings of the ashram, your heart goes out to the little girl.

For a nine-year-old with no acting experience, it certainly seems a mammoth task to do the complex role. But for this little prima donna from Sri Lanka, it was a cakewalk.

According to Mehta, the girl had never acted before and doesn't understand Hindi or English. But in the film not even once does she give the impression that she is talking in an alien language - she gives the right expressions and emotions while mouthing all her dialogues.

The amazing part is that Sarala learnt each line of her dialogue in a word-by-word phonetic process and communicated with Mehta through hand gestures with the help of an interpreter.

Mehta had auditioned more than 50 girls for the role, but when she met the young Sri Lankan she said, "Sarala seemed to have exactly the right combination of youthful innocence and unflagging independence."

Sarala has left the same kind of lasting impact on audiences as Ayesha Kapur did in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's critically acclaimed "Black", released in 2005.

Once again it is difficult to imagine a 10-year-old having to portray the anger, frustration and helplessness of a deaf, mute and blind girl on screen.

But Ayesha, who was pitted against the legendary Amitabh Bachchan and talented Rani Mukerji in the film, carried the role so effortlessly that many felt she was better than Rani. She overshadowed her co-stars with her natural performances.

Commenting upon this little bundle of talent, Bhansali had said: "She is a star, she is a monster, she is a genius, she is a chatterbox, she is spontaneous, she is effortless, she's got the aura of a rock star... she even bullied Amitabh Bachchan."

Bollywood acknowledged this young genius by giving her the Filmfare and STAR Screen awards for her performance in the film.

Then there is Visahl Bhardwaj's protégé Shweta Prasad, who wowed the audiences in the fantasy drama "Makadee" (2002).

Shweta shared screen space with stalwarts like Shabana Azmi and Makarand Deshpande. In spite of such seasoned performers, Shweta carved a niche for herself and sparkled in the double role.

For her outstanding performance in "Makadee" she too was honoured with the STAR Screen Award.

And she continued her good work in Nagesh Kukunoor's 2005 release "Iqbal", a simple tale about the triumph of the human spirit.

In the role of a deaf-and-mute protagonist's younger sister, Shweta turned out to be a scene-stealer. Her best scenes are where she interacts with seasoned actor Naseeruddin Shah.

Apart from the talented trio, Ali Haji, as Aamir Khan's and Kajol's son in last year's hit film "Fanaa", really stole the heart of audiences. Then again, in Karan Johar's family drama "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham", Jibraan Khan, who played Kajol's and Shah Rukh Khan's son, managed to impress audiences.

Now all eyes are set on Bhardwaj's "Blue Umbrella" where he introduces another child artiste named Shreya who will be acting with veteran actor Pankaj Kapoor.

With big production houses like UTV and Adlabs venturing into children's films, these kids will get more and more opportunities to showcase their talents.

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