Utpal Borpujari

March 21, 2010

Mumbai slum boy’s Oscar dreams

By Utpal Borpujari

Sagar Akash Salunke has one wish – to present the Oscar that he “will” bring home to India to President Pratibha Patil.

Come March 7, and the 16-year-old’s wish could very well come true, for this ninth standard student from a Mumbai slum is starring as the protagonist in Kavi, an internationally much-feted 19-minute short Hindi film by American director Gregg Helvey on bonded labour that has got nominated for the Oscars in the Best Short Film (Live Action) category.

Sagar is already gearing up for the biggest evening in the film world, planning to do his shopping for the event in Los Angeles itself.

Till a few days ago he did not even have a passport, but now he has one, thanks to the Central government that fast-tracked his application following requests from the film’s producers Harish Amin and Guneet Monga.

Sagar had earlier done another film called Bits and Pieces, which is not yet released, but this clearly is his biggest moment of glory, with the film, made by Helvey as part of his diploma project in University of Southern California.

“I will go to the Oscars and bring home the trophy, and take to Rashtrapati Bhawan to show it to Pratibhaitai Patil,” says the Maharashtrian, a resident of a slum in Borivali’s Gorai 2 locality whose parents earn less than Rs 10,000 a month to run a family of five that includes Sagar’s two elder brothers. His elder sister is already married.

Sagar also has many dreams in his eyes – all related to the film world. For one, he wants to be a full-time actor when he grows up. “Actor hi banna hai (I want to be an actor only),” Sagar told Deccan Herald after a special screening of the film here.

He seems to be already on that path, with acclaimed director Anurag Kashyap likely to cast him in one of his upcoming films.

He also dreams to be an actor who will be a combination of Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan. “Like Aamir Khan, I will do only one film a year and bring home the Oscar for that, like Hrithik I want to have the best body, like Akshay Kumar I want to do the best stunts and like Bachchan I want to be the best actor,” says the kid whose favourite films are “Sholay”, “Khiladi”, “3 Idiots” and “Krish”.

Amin and Monga, who spent three years to get the film made, are quite naturally on cloud nine. They virtually had no funds to make the film, which explains the long period it took to get completed, but ever since the Oscar nomination came, everybody has become interested in it.

They have met ministers and senior officials in Labour, Women & Child Development, Information & Broadcasting and Science & Technology ministries, and all are coming forward to help, says Monga.

The film is a straightforward but evocative narrative about how a child, whose parents are bonded labourers at a brick kiln in Maharashtra, escape from the sordid surroundings with the help of two NGO activists, and going by its theme, it won’t be a surprise if like Slumdog Millionaire and Smily Pinky, it also ends up winning the coveted statuette for its focus on the underbelly of India. 

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 01-03-2010)




1 Comment »

  1. […] Mumbai slum boy's Oscar dreams « Utpal Borpujari […]

    Pingback by Eckankar: Ancient Wisdom for Today: How Past Lives, Dreams, and Soul Travel Help You Find God | Path To God - Spiritual Journeys — March 21, 2010 @ 4:57 pm | Reply

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