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When reel meets real

Om Singh, a 16-year-old boy from Salaam Baalak Trust Shelter Home, is all set to make his Bollywood debut with Gali Guleiyan, starring Manoj Bajpayee. His real-life journey has been surrealistically in-sync with that of his onscreen character

It felt surreal. He was back to the same railway station where years back he used to sit for hours. At that time, he used to run away from home, unable to bear the violence and torture he was being subjected to and find solace at the station. But now things have changed, for good. He is here to shoot for a film — a Bollywood film, that too with an ensemble of some of India’s finest actors. Such is the journey of child actor Om Singh.

Four years back, Om Singh, who was then 12 years old, fled from his home in Jabalpur and came to Delhi. Due to the untimely demise of his parents, he was living with his brother, who was abusive and used to beat him. Unable to bear the violence, he left home. He was picked up by police at Chandni Chowk metro station. The police presented him before the Child Welfare Committee and he was transferred to Salaam Baalak Trust DMRC Children Home in 2014. It was here that he got to explore his love for acting and films. He took part in the annual theatre functions organised by the Home.

Om has played a pivotal role in Gali Guliyen , which has received numerous awards and appreciation internationally. The film boasts an ensemble of talented actors like Manoj Bajpayee, Neeraj Kabi, Ranvir Shorey and Shahana Goswami. The film has now been released in India. Recalling the day of his audition, he says, “I was playing in the ground here, when I got to know some film audition is taking place in our Home. So, I showed up and gave the audition.” After few days Dipesh Sir (Dipesh Jain) came back and took my screen test again. Then they selected me and my workshop started.

Coincidentally, the scene he enacted during the audition was that of a child being beaten by his father.

The lines between his reel life and real life were blurring, which made Om’s transition to his onscreen character, Idris, smooth. He further adds that he is a fan of his co-actor Manoj Bajpayee and likes his films: Gangs of Wasseypur, Satya, Shool.“I could not recognise Manoj Sir (Manoj Bajpayee) the first time I saw him on set because he was in the look of his character. So, I had to confirm it with Dipesh Sir,” recalls Singh.

“I always loved watching films, but never thought I would become an actor. But now, I love what I am doing and want to pursue it further,” says Om. When asked about his favourite Bollywood star, he unhesitatingly says it’s Salman Khan. “I like Salman Khan because he helps and supports underprivileged children and is really warm towards poor people.” But he also does not shy away from sharing the fact that when it comes to his favourite ‘actor’, it is his co-star Manoj Bajpayee. “As an actor, he is my favourite because when he acts, it doesn’t feel like he is acting. It looks so real!”

Om says he had a lot of fun while shooting for the film. But on the first day, like any other actor, he was nervous. “My first shot was at a butchery. I got really scared, because goats were slaughtered around me. But Neeraj Sir, who plays my father in the film (Neeraj Kabi), motivated me and then I felt better.” His best moment in the film, as he recalls, was a scene with his onscreen mother Shahana Goswami. “I was told to kiss my on-screen mother on the cheeks, but somehow I was failing to do it properly. So, she said it’s okay I will do it instead and then she kisses me on my forehead. It was a really sweet gesture,” Om explains. He also shares how filmmaker Dipesh Jain never lost his calm and would explain one scene to him even 10 times if required.

While shooting, he had not told anyone at the Home about it. His friends used to ask him where he is going every day. But he did not reveal much. Then gradually they got to know about his Bollywood debut, and now all his friends are excited to see him on the big screen! “You are a star now,” my friends are saying. I told them, “I am just one of you, I am the same old friend of yours!” laughs Singh. Apart from acting, this young talent is also interested in playing cricket and kabaddi.

Om was thrilled to see himself on the big screen for the first time. But he feels there were scenes he could have done better. “I told Dipesh Sir also about it, but he said according to me you have given your 100%!” On a concluding note, he said, “The film has a message for parents who do not treat their children properly.” He also says every parent must educate their child. Indeed, he was speaking from his own experience. Somewhere, Om could see himself in Idris and has thus infused life in the onscreen character, portraying it with authenticity.