Peter Pan had to be a popular product of J M Barrie's vivid imagination to have arrogantly latched on to his never-grow-up motto. Otherwise, in practicality, we ridicule an individual for resembling a childlike idealism or deliberation. The stress is always on growing up, though it's equally imperative that a child, while he's still one, enjoys his childhood to the fullest and best of his/her abilities.
I am afraid Darsheel Safary might be too caught up in the limelight to truly enjoy this precious phase of life. Lately, the little guy has been making the same decibel of news as his favourite Bollywood actors -- Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor.
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If he's not walking the runway for a designer at some random fashion week, he is inaugurating a gaming arcade at a mall or launching comic books with other actors. Could the commercials be any far behind? Now he's a brand ambassador for a health drink too. His calendar of activities doesn't end here. Next month, the cute-face who loves dosa will be a part of a students-only tour, 'Masti ki Pathshaala' to Switzerland, organised by a travel company he endorses.
Every child is special, read the tag-line of Taare Zameen Par, his debut in the insanely success-driven world of Bollywood. Darsheel, however, is extra-special. No one knew what to expect from Aamir Khan's directorial venture or this sweet-looking boy, chosen among 6000 kids, after its first promos hit the television screens. The film had maintained a fiercely low-profile all through. Come December 21, and nothing was the same again.
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TZP was officially the best film of 2007. Khan was lauded, critically and commercially, for his sensitive and sensible brand of filmmaking. And Darsheel as the dyslexic Ishaan attained iconic popularity. He achieved what superstars command crores for -- make us laugh, cry and be a part of his multi-coloured fantasy.
Everyone, including yours truly, fell in love with Darsheel. I saw the film twice in theatre, just to re-acquaint myself with the Bindaas kiddo again, and again. There is something unusually magnetic about his large brown eyes. They have moods, which keep changing every time he blinks. There's so much personality in them. In him. He is a sharp kid. A brilliant actor. And he knows it too. The restless tone of body language -- interspersed with constant chuckling, occasional somberness, clever quips -- gives it away.
Indeed, Darsheel isn't anything like those overrated cuties trying to act older than their age. I rooted for him at all award ceremonies (and will do so in the next few to follow). Fact is, he was fabulous in the film, far better than those he competed with in the category, and deserved every accolade and trophy that came his way.
The whole country went ga ga over him, and with good reason. There were a few odd exceptions too. I read this letter from one disgruntled father in a tabloid. The man complained how his kids have gone overboard emulating Darsheel's Ishaan (his character in TZP). They insisted they have dyslexia and find it problematic to read and write, refuse to study and dub the poor father a meanie, la Ishaan's dad, every time he reprimands them. Evidently, TZP had a deep impact on its viewers -- young and old.
And so, it is unpleasant to watch him become a target of over-zealous marketing or greedy opportunists hell bent on the commercialistion of Darsheel Safary. They will make profit on his expense. Darsheel might get rich too. The harsh reality, however, is that the Peter Pan period won't last forever. Eventually, he will grow up, enter the awkward time of teenage-hood -- his appearance will change and so will the attitude around him. So many child actors have disappeared in oblivion, once the 'cho-chweet' stage got over. One would never want the adorable Darsheel to ever encounter such heartbreak.
Right now, he is surrounded by grown-ups -- celebrities and media, who obviously make him feel wonderful. But when Shah Rukh Khan wisecracks, even as he perches Darsheel, recipient of the Filmfare Critics' Best Actor trophy on his shoulder, 'We won't let you fall. [But] If you grow up to be a movie star, then we'll let you fall,' there's a playfully camouflaged warning of what lies ahead.
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At an age when school, friends, games and activities are the be all of life, Darsheel is busy giving quotable quotes to the media. During one such session, he makes a face and petulantly remarks, 'Main pak gaya hoon, yeh media mere peeche pad gayi hai'. [I am fed up of the media chasing me].
That's hardly surprising considering the visual media is anyway a circus, continuously, on the lookout of willing catches like Rakhi Sawant. But, hey, Darsheel is neither an item nor a product. To think he isn't allowed/keen on working on any new movies so that he can concentrate on his studies, Darsheel, who even has his own business manager, is doing worse. He is being turned into a commodity. For God's sake, he's just a boy of impressionable age and should be treated with care and respect.
In another interview, he cribbed about how the attitude of his, perhaps envious, friends has changed post-TZP. The right thing to do would be his parents encouraging him to break the ice of perception and prejudice existing between the two parties.
Perhaps his friends are wary of his new-found celebrity-hood. Not every boy his age knows what fame is about, right? Maybe the distance is an act of self-defence. Darsheel could be the bigger guy here and approach his former friends. How hard can it be? We have all been kids -- popular or introverted. All it takes is a big smile and a warm handshake to get along. There's no harm in trying anyway.
Success can be a blessing and evil, depends on how you take it. For Darsheel's sake, I hope he doesn't have to bear the brunt of show business and its ever-changing priorities and pin-ups.
Anything in excess is a disease. Even fame. Let the boy not worry about making money, winning awards or curious scribes. Let him be clueless about what he wants to be -- actor, jewellery designer or dancer. Let him just enjoy his childhood. Just let him be.