Not so long ago, there was quite some outrage – and rightly so – about a TV series that featured a child actor romancing a much older woman. The series, which was eventually taken off air after much protest, has been ‘revamped’ and is now back (as of yesterday) with decidedly adult characters. But this is no stray occurrence in an industry that places child actors in adult situations on the sets, and makes them speak lines that are beyond the scope of their comprehension. Silverscreen speaks to a few yesteryear child actors who tell us what they remember of their time on the sets.
Having starred in over 100 films as a child actor, some of Mahendran’s popular films include Naattaamai, Padayappa, Kumbakonam Gopalu and Aahaa. “I remember a lengthy dialogue in Nattammai,” Mahendran says when we speak to him, “I would tell actor Vijaykumar, ‘Naan paathen thatha. Akka azhudhukkite bikela pochu, naanum pinnadiye ponen, anga oru veetukku ponanga, adhu pootiyirundhuchu, approm akka azhudhukkite velila vandhaanga, mosam pannintaangannu sonnanga.’ [I followed Akka as she rode somewhere. She stopped outside a house and cried that she has been deceived]”
Mahendran was three-and-a-half when Naatammai was filmed. “When I watch that movie now, I wonder how I could have delivered the dialogue without knowing what it meant.”
Nevertheless, Mahendran adds that the early exposure to films came in handy later. “I grew up to be a bold guy. In school, I fearlessly handled peer group clashes and had the courage to directly talk to the principal about any issue. I was not anxious to face adults.”
Mahendran is currently shooting for a Telugu film Saavi and a Tamil film, Rangaraattinam.
TV host Priyadarshini was a part of films like Dhaavani Kanavugal, Naagam, Kaaval Kaidhi and Uyire Unakkaaga. She says, “When I acted in K Bhagyaraj’s Dhaavani Kanavugal, I was just seven years old. I was part of a popular scene in the film. Bhagyaraj would watch a film with his sisters in a theatre; he would throw down a coin and would make his sisters look for it until a romantic scene got over. During the shoot, I vaguely remember the director telling me to see an empty screen, bend down and search for something. I actually liked the scene as it aesthetically depicted a brother’s responsibility.”
Priyadarshini is currently shooting for the Vijay TV series Tamizh Kadavul Murugan.
Popular actor, TV personality and now a dubbing artiste, Deepa Venkat has acted in several television series during her childhood. “When I was in class seven, I played a character in the serial Raghuvamsam. I played the role of an adolescent girl who hates her mom and likes her dad. The character would always express hatred in every dialogue. I didn’t understand her at all when I played it. I used to wonder why the girl hated her mom. After several years, I learnt that the mother was supposed to be adulterous.”
Deepa Venkat had recently dubbed for Nayanthara in Aramm and Kajal Aggarwal in Mersal.
Kalyani was known for her role as the little girl in Alli Thandha Vaanam alongside Prabhudheva. She also played prominent roles in films like Ramanna and Jayam. “I had a happy childhood on the sets,” she declares, “I loved going to shooting spots. But now, when I talk to some of my friends, I think I may have missed out on some fun. On the sets, I got to spend time with adults and didn’t really hang out with kids. I remember listening to household tales. But I did get a rare opportunity to act in films which other kids of my age didn’t, and I’m happy about it.
Kalyani is currently in talks for a couple of films and TV shows.
As a child actor, Harathi played Muruga in the film Murugane Thunai, and was also part of films like Chatriyan and Kaavalukku Kettikaran. Harathi declares that she played her age in most films. “My mother would explain the character and the dialogues that I had to perform during the shoot. My parents consciously picked roles that retained my innocence. But these days, I’m surprised at the kind of dialogues that child actors are made to speak.”
After her stint in Bigg Boss, Harathi is now in talks for a couple of films; an official announcement is expected soon.
Image courtesy: South Indian Cinema (Kalyani), Filmy Today (Deepa Venkat), Hotstar (Harathi)