Be it Daisy and Honey Irani or Baby Naaz in the 50s, Neetu Singh and Sarika in the 60s, Master Raju in the 70s, Urmila Matondkar and Jugal Hansraj in the 80s or Kunal Kemmu in the 90s, child stars have been an integral part of Hindi cinema.
Few films have however successfully captured the true essence of childhood. Here are a few sterling performances by remarkable child actors and films that will remind us all of the wonderful years and the way we were.
1. Hamid: One of the most moving moments in Aijaz Khan’s ‘Hamid’ is when a seven-year-old Kashmiri child dealing with the trauma of a missing father and a grieving mother, screams into a phone and tells the person he believes to be God, “If you can’t help people or make a difference, then why do you exist? Aap hain Kyon?” Set against the backdrop of the unrest in Kashmir, this child, Hamid is the film’s most important character as he deals with immense loss and tragedy and yet manages to ultimately retain his faith in life and in God. Talha Arshad Reshi as Hamid is moving beyond words and deservingly won a National Film Award for Best Child Artist. This Yoodlee production and adaptation of the play ‘Phone No. 786’ by Mohd. Amin Bhatal also went on to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Urdu. The film stars Rasika Dugal, Vikas Kumar and in major roles.
2. K.D. : The charm of this gem of a Yoodlee film is packed in the repartee between a young orphan Kutti and a runaway patriarch who wants to live life to the fullest before the inevitable curtain call ends his story. This 2019 Madhumita directorial stars veteran Tamil actor Mu Ramaswamy and young star Nagavishal who plays Kutti with great swag and fills up every frame he is in with great wit and impeccable comic timing. This journey of a lifetime shows that perhaps children are our best teachers and could teach us how to leave behind our baggage and live happier fuller lives. Naga Vishal went on to win the National Award for Best Child Artist for his self-assured performance.
3. Taare Zameen Par: This path-breaking 2007 film, for the first time explored the subject of dyslexia and learning disabilities in Hindi cinema. At the heart of the film was 8-year-old Ishaan Awasthi, struggling to make sense of an insensitive education system and the expectations of his demanding father. The film based on Amol Gupte’s years of research revealed how apathetic educators and ignorant parents can almost succeed in crushing the imagination and latent talent of a child. Ishaan was played with heartbreaking poignance by Darsheel Safary while the teacher who changes his life was played by Aamir Khan who also took the credit for the film’s direction and production.
4. Stanley Ka Dabba: Amol Gupte made his debut as a director and producer with this film and dedicated it to countless orphans who have to fend for themselves from a young age and parent themselves in the face of harsh realities. The story revolves around Stanley, a young boy studying in the Holy Family High School who never brings a tiffin box. He never lets anyone know the real reason why he cannot bring any food and has a caring set of friends who take care of him and share their tiffin meals with him. Who is Stanley and what exactly is his real story, are questions that the film eventually answers and leaves the audience in tears. Partho Gupte, the director’s son won the National Film Award for Best Child Artist and the film also starred Amol himself, Divya Dutta, Divya Jagdale, and Raj Zutshi.
5. Bajarangi Bhaijaan: Director Kabir Khan’s pet theme of all-encompassing humanism sparkled through this mega-blockbuster which went on to make over ₹969.06 crores worldwide. Co-produced by Kabir himself along with lead star Salman Khan and Rockline Venkatesh, the film also starred Kareena Kapoor Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui but the real scene-stealer was debutante Harshaali Malhotra. The young actor played a mute six-year-old Pakistani girl Shahida who develops a bond with Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi, an Indian who begins a momentous journey to safely take her back to her hometown. The child star tugged at millions of hearts with her charm and utter innocence and played a huge part in the film’s success.