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9 Memorable Indian Films Led By Child Artists

9 Memorable Indian Films Led By Child Artists

child artists Bollywood

While our cinema has mostly relied and thrived on hero-centric films, there have been times directors have chosen to tell their stories through children. And these aren’t just cute, adorable kids but artists with some serious acting talent. Occasionally, we get films that are about children but not necessarily for children. These movies teach us valuable lessons, which were most likely lost along with our childhood innocence. While not all the films below may have solely been led by child artists, they’ve had an important part to play in driving the narrative.

So here go, some of the most memorable and loved Indian films led by the talented young performers whose characters often carry more wisdom than their adult counterparts.

1. I am Kalam (2010)

Dir: Nila Madhab Panda

Child Artist: Harsh Mayar (Chhotu)

Life hasn’t been generous to young and innocent Chhotu aka Kalam (Harsh Mayar). That doesn’t deter him from dreaming big, though. Chhotu isn’t just another character here. He symbolises the lesser privileged, who harbour hopes and dreams just like the rest of us.

I am Kalam trails the little village boy’s inspiring journey of getting closer to his dream, one step at a time. He draws inspiration from late President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a man with humble beginnings.

A compelling watch, I am Kalam throbs with warmth and earnestness besides being technically brilliant. It wonderfully weaves in beautiful lessons of love and life, of humanity and integrity. And above all, of equality.

Besides several international awards, I am Kalam also won Harsh Mayar the prestigious National Award for the Best Child Artist in 2011.

Where to Watch: Netflix


2. Dhanak (2015)

Dir: Nagesh Kukunoor

Child Artists: Hetal Gada (Pari), Krrish Chhabria (Chotu)

Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak is the stuff fairy tales are made of. No wonder the film was adapted into a novel by award-winning children’s author Anushka Ravishankar.

The film trails young, orphaned siblings Pari (Hetal Gada) and Chhotu (Krrish Chhabria) who take on a journey, with a dream in their heart, oblivious to how they’d realize it. But they set out nevertheless, their hearts ablaze with hope. Storyteller Nagesh Kukunoor creates a world that is dream-like, magical and deeply satisfying. How Pari and Chhotu view it through their eyes, is what makes this film an endearing one.

It deservedly won the Best Children’s Film at the 64th National Film Awards.

Dhanak is lush visual delicacy, courtesy cinematographer Chirantan Das, who majestically, captures the land of sand and sun. Both Rajasthan and its music have a character of their own and breathe color and meaning into the title, which means a ‘rainbow.’

Where to Watch: Netflix

3. Masoom (1983)

Dir: Shekhar Kapur

Child Artists: Jugal Hansraj (Rahul), Urmila Matondkar (Pinky), Aradhana Srivastav (Minni)

One of my most memorable films as a child, Shekhar Kapoor’s Masoom was adapted from Eric Segal’s 1980 novel Man, Woman and Child. The movie is driven by the central figure of the abandoned son. Jugal Hansraj truly does a great job in his role. He is able to hold his own while playing alongside veteran Naseeruddin Shah, who portrays the distraught father marvelously. Musically, it still remains one of the best albums of all time.

The strongest factor of the movie stems from its ability to involve the audience in its narrative. It deals with the themes of guilt and innocence. Each character is driven by their emotions. It’s hard to point fingers, to take sides. If we look at them empathetically, every character seems to be right in their own way. There is no clear protagonist or antagonist. It is a simple, innocent and closer-to-real-life story of life and love.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video

4. Killa (2015) – Marathi

Dir: Avinash Arun

Child Artists: Archit Deodhar (Chinmay), Parth Bhalerao (Bandya)

Killa trails an 11-year old Chinmay (Archit Deodhar) who adapts to a new life, a new world after his father’s death. This nostalgic trip back to childhood is a delicate, refreshing and beautiful piece of cinema.

At the 62nd National Film Awards, Killa won National Award for the Best Marathi film.

It also won the Crystal Bear Award at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival by the Children’s Jury in the Generation KPlus section.

Cinematographer Avinash Arun succeeds at telling a simple story with profundity in an astounding directorial debut. Few films stay with you long after you’ve finished watching them. This is one of them. Don’t miss it!

Where to Watch: Netflix

5. Taare Zameen Par (2007)

Dir: Aamir Khan

Child Artist: Darsheel Safary (Ishaan Awasthi)

A truly magical experience, Aamir Khan’s directorial debut centered around the flaws of an indoctrinated society and a faulty system of education. The title is a metaphor for children. Aamir highlights the fact that every child is special in their own way. The social stigma towards pressurized, template education is showcased in great detail. This movie may be about the life of a dyslexic child, but is a beautiful lesson in parenting.

The film also rebukes a system of education that evaluates the worth of a human being based on his or her retention capability.

The marine art symbolism stands out as a core theme to illustrate the diversity that is present within human beings as well. And Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary) wows us with an amazing display of complex emotions. The suffering in silence is heartbreaking and resonates with the viewer. Aamir delivers an impeccably heartwarming performance. But the real star of the film is the script by Amole Gupte.

Where to Watch: Netflix

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6. The Blue Umbrella (2005)

Dir: Vishal Bharadwaj

Child Artist: Shreya Sharma (Biniya)

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Based on the novel of the same name by Ruskin Bond, The Blue Umbrella is a beautifully crafted story that illustrates the loss of morals in the face of greed. It asks us a very profound question. What is the point of possessing beautiful objects? The movie questions our habit of attributing extrinsic value to something that has no intrinsic merit. But that doesn’t mean the film takes up the Marxist dialogue. It simply looks at the world through a child’s mind – free of corrupt thought.

The movie sports a beautiful interaction between a young girl and a man, both of whom want to possess the blue umbrella which was given to the girl by a Japanese tourist. Its striking beauty entices the man as he shuns all his morals in order to obtain it. The Blue Umbrella is a sophisticated study of the ever-changing psychology of the human mind.

Where to Watch: Netflix

7. Tahaan (2008)

Dir: Santosh Sivan

Child Artist: Purav Bhandare (Tahaan)

Santosh Sivan’s Tahaan is a cinematographic and philosophical masterpiece. It elucidates the extreme contrast present between life and violence in the magnificently picturesque vales of Kashmir. The director tries to show us the Kashmir of today. It is a place where lives are haunted by the dangers of terrorism. And seeing this through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy gives us an unbiased, unadulterated narrative into the lives of the many innocent people who unknowingly get involved in this market of murder.

The young boy’s only wish was to be reunited with his pet donkey, Birbal. But in pursuit of this goal, he is taken on a journey where he meets new people, makes new friends and also understands the brutal reality hidden behind the seemingly tranquil mountainscape.

Where to Watch: Netflix

8. Rockford (1999)

Dir: Nagesh Kukunoor

Child Artist: Rohan Dey (Rajesh Naidu)

A nostalgic trip to the school days, Nagesh Kukunoor’s film revives old memories. Memories of a world, of a life free of responsibilities but one that came with its own baggage. The film beautifully brings alive both sides of the world.

The student-teacher relationship, friendships, the break-ups, the fear of loneliness, the bullying, the insecurities, the innocence of first love, first crush, first kiss, the heartbreaks. The film very well handles all the aspects.

Rockford may not be the best film, technically. Most performances are average. (But Rohan Dey as Rajesh ably led the film in a convincing performance). But its earnest, heartfelt tone resonates with the viewer. It makes you feel part of its world. That, I believe, is more important, than getting it technically right. It’s made with a heart. Watch it.

Where to Watch: Hotstar

9. Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke (1993)

Dir: Mahesh Bhatt

Child Artists: Kunal Khemu (Sunny), Sharokh Bharucha (Vicky), Baby Ashrafa (Munni)

Another delightful childhood memory, Hum Hai Rahi Pyaar Ke was a light-hearted, fun film among Mahesh Bhatt’s otherwise serious repertoire of work. A generational favorite, Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke rode on its remarkable cast and an engagingly narrated story. The fact that this was a not a hero centric film, unlike the regular nineties films, also made it stand out. From Juhi Chawla’s sparkling performance and Aamir Khan’s restrained, well-balanced act, to the effulgent child actor Kunal Khemu, every character was in his element.

What did we miss? What did you think were some of the best Indian films led by child artists? Leave us your recommendations in the comments below.

By Mansi Dutta, Deepjyoti Roy

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View Comment (1)
  • In my opinion all the films you have mentioned are gold mine of superb performances by children. In addition to your list, I liked and feel should also include films like Gulzar’s Kitaab with Master Raju, Mahesh Bhatt’s Zakhm with Kunal Kemu and Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay.

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