Salaam Bombay star, now an auto driver

 Can a movie change a slum kid’s life? Shafiq Syed, who played the lead role of Krishna in ‘Salaam Bombay’ as a 12 year old feels it cannot. He is now working on a script about a story of street kid who ends up back on the street even after becoming famous with a film.

“Even after winning the national award for the best child actor, I was begging in Mumbai for a living. Now, I am driving an auto to make ends meet. Film makers just use us and throw us. The children in Slumdog Millionaire too will be forgotten with time. Just like the way I was forgotten. I only wish that the media keeps following these kids, at least because of which the film makers ensure a good life to them,” Shafiq, who is now 32 years old told MiD DAY.


When we met Shafiq he was waiting in an auto lane for passengers at Koramangala in Bangalore. Dressed in khakhi auto drivers’ uniform he was reading four newspapers. “I have bought these papers today just because Slumdog won the Oscars. I am looking at the pictures of these kids and their families celebrating the victory. I remember my past. It is good to see that these children went for the Oscar ceremony. I hope the focus on these kids remains,” he said.


Though Shafiq is happy with the Oscars, he did not like ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ “Fr George of Bosco House for street kids took me to a multiplex to watch the film. I did not like it. It is a good commercial film, but does not show the reality. Just tell me a simple thing. How can a chai wala reach Kaun Banega Crorepati and speak in English in the first place. Moreover, he gets all the answers right because of the flashbacks. We have been watching the quiz show for so many years, has any slum boy won the big money?” he reasons.


He however lauds the story of ‘Salaam Bombay.” “There the boy Krishna ends back on the streets and is lost in the crowd. The same happened to me. This is reality. Slumdog won the Oscars just because it was made by a foreigner,” he said.


Shafiq is now working on a script based on his life. “I ran to Mumbai, acted in an award winning film, won a national award for best actor and ended back on the streets. Now, I am driving this auto to feed my wife and three kids. I know the reality is that I need to take care of them,” he said.


When he was 12 years old, Shafiq ran away from home in Bangalore and went to Mumbai. “We would beg near a dargah in Churchgate and sleep on foot path. One day we were standing at Churchgate railway station when someone came and asked if we were interested in acting in a drama. I went with them. A workshop was conducted and I was selected for the lead role. It was only after a month and half that we were told that we were to act in a movie. Manoj Balpai and Irrfan Khan were among the people who conducted the workshop. Now they are all big people. Meera Nair directed the film and it won accolades. I won the national award for the best actor. After that I acted in another film Goutam Ghose’s ‘Patang’ which also won the national award for the best film. I was back on the footpath and I returned home to Bangalore,” he said.


Awards for Salaam Bombay



 This story was published in MiD DAY. Check it on the online edition


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