Working early has given my son exposure
—Vijaya Lakshmi, mother
Child artiste, Mumbai
Akshay Batchu, 12, began his acting career at the age of four. He got his first role when his photograph landed up with a film coordinator who got him cast in the Kannada film Kotigobba which released in 2001. Akshay went with his mother Vijaya Lakshmi for the shoot out of curiosity but when he ended up with another role, this time in a Telugu film titled Santosham (2002), the family decided to accept more assignments. Lakshmi was initially hesitant about letting her son work in films from such an early age but after hearing the praise that the directors and actors showered on her son she decided to encourage his talent.
Workaholic: Akshay Batchu, 12, will work on two films during his summer break. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
He will be acting in two films in the summer holidays this year, one Hindi and the other Telugu. In the last eight years, Akshay has acted in six films, including the Salman Khan-starrer Wanted, a few serials and around 30 advertisements. His mother has saved about Rs10 lakh from his earnings.
Lakshmi, who works in a life insurance company, feels that the outcome of her son’s exposure to the film industry has been positive. The pros include his transformation from a shy boy to a confident tween. “He is self-assured specially with all the veterans he interacts with. Another positive is that films often require him to travel to foreign locations, giving him a chance to see places he otherwise wouldn’t have been able to,” she says.
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Akshay has maintained good grades according to Lakshmi but is finding it increasingly difficult to cope up. Each shooting schedule lasts for 10 days and each film requires two-three schedules. He ends up skipping classes often. “This is the reason why I don’t allow him to act in serials because that will require him to be on the sets everyday.”
One thing Lakshmi does not let her son do is miss an exam. Akshay was selected to play Gayatri Joshi’s brother in Swades. But the shooting schedule required him to miss his final exams. Lakshmi immediately said no—a decision that Akshay is still angry about. Akshay has to regularly deal with disappointment when he does not bag a role. But Lakshmi thinks that is a good thing: “He will have to deal with disappointments in life even when he grows up. It is best that he understands from now on itself how to move ahead when he does not get what he wants.”
I am not sure if she should continue this
—Vimmi Ghai, mother
Dance instructor, New Delhi
For the last two years, 11-year-old Tanya Ghai has been a dance instructor at Kanhai’s Institute of Performing Arts (Kipa), at the JCO Club, Defence Colony, New Delhi. Tanya started learning dance at the same institute when she was 8 years old during her summer holidays three years ago, but she was so quick at getting the dance steps right that within a couple of months she was already in the senior batch. “When the instructors at the Kipa suggested that we should allow Tanya to become an instructor, we were apprehensive. We did not want her to grow up too soon. In fact, her grandfather was opposed to the idea of Tanya working at a young age,” says Vimmi Ghai, Tanya’s mother, who is a special educator at Blue Bells School, New Delhi. But her husband and she allowed Tanya to take two classes of the juniormost batch at Kipa on weekends because they felt this exposure would do her good. “She has become organized and her leadership skills have improved tremendously. She is very responsible and prepares for the dance lesson in advance. She has a sense of achievement in this and we don’t want to take that away from her, at least not yet. Eventually, when she gets older and studies become more important, dancing will have to take a backseat,” says Vimmi, adding that she needs to check Tanya’s bossy behaviour sometimes. “I have to tell her to mellow down and treat everyone, especially the older people in her dance class with respect. She is a young child and sometimes forgets this when she takes on the role of a teacher.”
Twinkle toes: Tanya Ghai (centre. middle row), 11, gives dance lessons. Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Two things Vimmi is sure about: Tanya will not perform at malls or participate in TV shows. “She is much too young for that and though she does not like this ban, we have made it clear that we will not compromise on this aspect.” And the Rs350 Tanya earns per class goes into her bank account and is not to be used as extra pocket money. “Sure, she earns, but she has to manage in the pocket money she gets from us and not use what she earns.”
We don’t want him to work again for a few years
—Shylaja Shrikanth, mother
Director and actor, Bangalore
Kishan Shrikanth has been mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the youngest director of a film at the age of nine. The film titled C/O Footpath, a movie on street children ran a full house for 100 days in Bangalore in 2006 and both the young director and his parents were hounded by the local media after its release. “We were asked just one question every time. Has Kishan lost his childhood?” says his father Shrikanth who is now amused by how hassled he used to be when grilled by the press.
Kishan has been in the limelight since the age of three when he started as a model for fashion shows and then began acting in Kannada films and serials at the age of four. But it was his debut film as director in which he cast himself in the lead that brought him in the the spotlight. “We withdrew the film from halls after it completed a 100 days; Kishan just went out to play with his friends and didn’t speak about making another film for almost two years. And we decided then that it was time for him to concentrate on studies and play, and be a normal child,” says his mother Shylaja Shrikanth.
Movie-maker: Kishan Shrikanth directed a film when he was 9. Hemant Mishra/Mint
The burden of his stardom and long work hours made Shylaja uncomfortable when it lasted. “My husband had to quit his job as a tax officer; I had to accompany him (Kishan) wherever he went and we had to make sure that Kiran, our daughter was doing fine too,” says Shylaja as she mentions that she had to even keep in touch with a friend who was a child psychologist to understand how best to cope with situations of pressure.
Kishan, 14, is now all set to cram for his class 10 boards next year and at present says he may direct another film on adventure sports after the board exams by which time he will be about 17.