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|March 15, 2001||
'Rahul is better than shooting for Maggi noodles'
He loves cartoons and thinks Karisma Kapoor is the most beautiful girl in the world.
He's a diehard Hrithik Roshan fan, can watch Kaho Naa...Pyaar Hai any time and tries to match steps with his hero whenever Aye mere dil toh gaayega is played.
He enjoys riding his bicycle and going out for dinners. He gobbles up chicken and fish curry but takes hours over dal-chawal and doodh-roti.
He dreams of becoming a doctor or an engineer some day without understanding what these big words really mean.
He's like any other kid next door.
So what is it that makes Yash Pathak special?
His 'natural' talent in front of the camera and the fact that, at six, he's playing the lead role in a film.
"When I decided to name him Yash, I never thought that he'd bring us so much name and fame," confesses his mother Poorva. "But now, thanks to him I am quite well-known in our colony in Goregaon, Bombay. as 'Yash ki mummy'!"
It's obvious that this simple, middle-class housewife, who gave up her career to bring up her child, is enjoying every minute of their newfound yash. (fame)
Every since teasers of Prakash Jha's Rahul started coming on air, this knee-high schoolboy has become quite a celebrity in his neighbourhood.
"The first time he saw the promos, he was so excited that he ran around the building, rapping on the doors of our neighbours, urging them to turn on their television sets so that they could catch him in action," Poorva laughs.
Talking about Rahul, we wonder how he snapped up this much-coveted project? "The competition was very tough," admits Poorva. "Yash has been modelling since he was three-and-a-half years and has appeared in a number of ads including Postman oil, Britannia cheese, Parle Marie Gold, Maggie noodles, D-Cold rub and Goodday Biscuits.
"Prakashji was on the lookout for a boy who could play the four-and-a-half Rahul in his film and happened to come across some photographs of Yash. One day, I got a call from his office requesting me to bring Yash over for an audition."
Auditioning was not new to either Yash or Poorva. He had been screen-tested for ad campaigns several times before.
He hopped across to Jha's office and made it to the first shortlist. This meant that he had to attend a three-day workshop in early September 2000 along with 20 other boys. At the end of the session, the list had narrowed down to three.
Three became two and, suddenly, the choice was between Yash and a boy from Indore.
"I couldn't believe it when we were finally told that Yash was the chosen one," marvels his doting mom.
Relief turned to disbelief when the Pathaks were informed that he was playing the lead role in a film being produced by Subhash Ghai's Mukta Arts and directed by Prakash Jha, who had accolade-winning films like Hip Hip Hurray, Damul, Mrityudand and Dil Kya Kare behind him.
Rahul is the only common bond between an estranged couple and is his mission in life to reunite his parents. "Whether he succeeds in doing so you'll have to wait and watch," Poorva says, mysteriously, refusing to spoil the climax of the film.
Yash had done half-a-dozen ads and has acted in a serial, Choodiyan (though it was only a blink-and-you-miss-him appearance).
This role demanded a 47-days outdoor in Panchgani. Poorva was glad the shoot was scheduled during the Diwali vacation.
"He got three weeks out of school and his studies didn't suffer. Though I had to take special permission to forward his exams and see that they were wrapped up in three days instead of stretching over a week," she says, sounding very much the concerned parent.
School is obviously top priority for Yash, as his mother cribs about the shooting being spread over two months. "And Yash is still needed for another four-five days. After that, the dubbing will keep him busy for a fortnight," she sighs.
Acting in a film can throw a little boy's well-planned schedule into a tizzy. But that's not all. Poorva still shudders at the memory of a sleepy Yash sitting at the edge of a sheer cliff in Panchgani at 6 am. "One wrong step and he'd have tipped over," she recalls, with horror.
Yash has performed several feats during the shooting of Rahul. He has walked through a jungle at 4 am on a chilly November morning through sheets of rain, singing a song that poignantly expresses his feelings of helpless anger and intense frustration over his parents' frequent quarrels.
He's even camped out on a dump yard soon after his afternoon meal, with mosquitoes, flies, even vultures hovering around him. "I wasn't surprised when the nauseating smell made him sick. He threw up everything he had eaten," Poorva says.
She admits that she was initially pretty upset with Prakash Jha for making the child go through such an ordeal. But after seeing the film, she admits that the scene does leave an impact.
"When I got my son's portfolio done, it was only because like any other mother, I wanted to see my child on screen. But I never imagined that one day, he would be working in such a big project in which he gets to sing five songs out of seven, two of them solo numbers.
"He's surprised me with his patience, dedication and obvious talent. I've seen my boy working for 10 hours at a stretch without nodding off, without any complaints and never ever crying. Yash was an angel and had grown so close not just to his reel life parents, Neha and Jatin, but the rest of the unit too. The day we were leaving, everyone had tears in their eyes," says Poorva looking misty-eyed herself.
The dewdrops turn into a dazzling smile as she recalls the perfectionist Jha telling her that they had been able to accomplish the miracle of completing 90 per cent of the film in one schedule thanks to her gifted child.
"I don't know how Yash does it but he instinctively manages to get every shot just right. He has never undergone any kind of training and certainly isn't the best of dancers. He even managed to sail through a number at a school function without too many hiccups," Poorva beams, proudly.
So do we see a future for Yash as a child star? "No way," says Poorva, firmly. "I have decided that once he moves to standard I, I will cut down on his ad assignments. And no more serials or films unless it is a hard-to-turn-down offer from Mahesh Manjrekar or Mahesh Bhatt.
"I'm not going to let my son work in another film unless it is something he will be remembered for. Something like what the young Ajay Devgan did in Zakhm. And I will make sure his studies don't suffer, ever."
So Yash's claim-to-fame could begin, even end, with Rahul.
But for the time being, the six-year-old is enjoying his moment in the sun. "It is better than shooting for Maggie noodles," he says, flashing the heart-warming smile that's going to make him a hero soon.
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