Some acted for a lark, and there were those for whom it was an occupation for years. For so many it was either indulgence or fun, for others it was being the bread-winner of the family, says Rajiv Vijayakar.
Aftab Shivdasani: Aftab as a kid worked with the likes of Shekhar Kapur (Mr India) and Pankuj Parashar (Chaalbaaz) without realising it. There were five other films, but in hindsight Aftab says he was just having a ball as the onus of the film’s success and failure does not fall on kid stars. His adult debut came in Mast.
Asha Parekh: As Asha Parekh was their only child, her parents raved over her unusual talent at Kathak. Beginning with Aasmaan (1952), she worked in popular films like Dhobi Doctor, Baap Beti, Ayodhyapati and Aasha. And yet the transition to heroine was not easy. Director Vijay Bhatt thought she was no star material. But Nasir Husain bet on her with Dil Deke Dekho and she became one of the most successful actresses of the times.
Nargis: As Baby Nargis, she first appeared in Talash-E-Huq (1935) and shifted to leads with Tamanna and Taqdeer in the early 40s. As she was the daughter of popular actress-singer Jaddanbai, she was probably the first star-kid of Hindi cinema to appear in Hindi cinema.
Neetu Singh: Not much is known about why Neetu Singh as Baby Sonia came into acting, and it is possible that it was the combination of her doll-like looks, persona and contacts in Chennai. Starting out with Suraj, her main powerhouse turn came as the twins in Do Kaliyan.
Noorjahan: From Hind Ka Tara (1930) and several other silent and talkie films, Baby Noorjahan also caught attention with her voice, trained as a singer, became a singer-actress as a child, then adult singer and finally a top actress beginning with Khandaan (1942). Till today, Lata Mangeshkar terms this singer-star as her inspiration.
Padmini Kolhapure: Related to the Mangeshkar family, Padmini was a child singer in several films like Yaadon Ki Baraat and had also doubled as a child artiste in a scene in Ek Khiladi Bawan Pattey earlier. Asha Bhosle introduced her to Dev Anand and she acted in Ishq Ishq Ishq. She proved to be a high-voltage performer as a kid in Satyam Shivam Sundaram and Saajan Bina Suhagan and after bold turns as an adolescent in Insaf Ka Tarazu and Gehrayee turned leading lady with Ahista Ahista, Prem Rog and other films.
Sridevi: Sridevi’s career as a child artiste began at the age of four, which is why when she graduated to heroine’s roles, she had the camera-friendly expertise of a veteran. Her only Hindi film as a kid was Julie, and just three years later, she had made her lead debut in Hindi too with Solwa Sawan. From Himmatwala came big time, consolidated by Nagina, Mr India, Chaalbaaz, Lamhe and others.
Urmila Matondkar: The va-va-voom siren of Rangeela and the seasoned actress (Judaai, Bhoot, Pinjar) actually arrived as a kid with Shekhar Kapur’s Masoom. Before she became a leading lady with Narsimha, she had also acted in films like Sur-Sangam, Bade Ghar Ki Beti, Kalyug, Bhavna and Dacait.
Aamir Khan: Aamir was a child artiste in just two family films — uncle Nasir Husain’s Yaadon Ki Baraat and father Tahir’s Madhosh. His first adult role (Holi) was not a lead role. For that he had to wait for uncle Nasir’s Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak.
Bobby Deol: Bobby was just seven when dad Dharmendra asked him if he would do just one scene in which he had to pick up a great hammer and beat some iron. “I was too young to realise then that I was working with a great director like Manmohan Desai! I just wore the costume and did it!” Dad launched him in Barsaat a full 18 years later.
Hrithik Roshan:Dad Rakesh gave him a cameo in Aap Ke Deewane when he was barely six. Earlier the same year, his maternal grandfather J Om Prakash made him dance in a (hit) song enacted by hero Jeetendra in Aasha. But Hrithik did a death-scene at 12 (as Rajnikant’s adopted son) in dad’s production Bhagwan Dada directed by Prakash, who right away predicted the superstardom that came with Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai 14 years later.
Neil Nitin Mukesh: His recent debut in Johnny Gaddaar has wowed both critics and audience. Neil Nitin Mukesh was a child artiste in Vijay (as young Rishi Kapoor) and Jaisi Karni Waisi Bharni and why not? After all, his grandfather, legendary singer Mukesh, had been an actor too.
Sanjay Dutt: His trademark dancing was actually seen first in that song sequence in dad Sunil Dutt’s Reshma Aur Shera — Sanjay was a pre-teen then! Dad took a decade more to introduce him in Rocky.
Other child stars:
Child artistes and sisters Daisy Irani and Honey Irani turned character artistes. Honey Irani later turned writer (Lamhe, Aaina).
Lata Mangeshkar turned into an institution as a singer.
Master Alankar, Master Raju and Baby Farida became well-known character artistes.
Sulakshana Pandit and Vijayta Pandit grew from child-singers to heroines, Ayesha Takia from child-model to leading lady and Mahesh Kothare to top-name Marathi hero and director who also directed two Hindi films.
The widely-believed jinx of kids unable to break through as leading men and women came true with Master Satyajit, Pallavi Joshi, Jugal Hansraj, Baby Tabassum, Baby Naaz and (in Hindi films) Baby Khushboo, who rose to be a superstar in the South.