Amole Gupte is very happy with the way Anil ‘Chopper’ Bhope is etched out in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kaminey but he isn’t half as excited about his first feature film role as he is about the first film directed by a group of children from the Pali Chimbai Municipal School, Mumbai. With the help of the Aseema Support Centre (for street and underprivileged children), Amole has helped a group of nine to 14-year-olds write, direct and act in a short film titled Aansoon Bane Moti. The six-minute film talks about how a child facing reprimands from his teacher is coaxed by a classmate to share his problems. The teacher and the kid’s peers are then made to understand the reason behind his sluggish behaviour. The atmosphere becomes cordial and the child develops a happy sense of belonging. “I have been taking classes for these children in theatre and cinema studies for the last two years and I am very impressed by their effort. I believe in inclusive education. I actually started interacting with children at least 10 years ago when I thought I should take my understanding of art to children and help them explore the world differently. But I was not mature enough then to realise the potential of cinema to do this,” rues the man who wants to start an ideal Shanti Niketan someday.

It’s not every day that you come across a person with such enthusiasm to make a difference to children. “I always think this category is neglected since children don’t form any vote bank,” he guffaws. “The problem I had with Taare Zameen Par was we were alienating the child. I was disgusted looking at how the meat shops opened up after the film; scores of medical people advising panic-stricken parents about how their few-months-old infant showed signs of being a slow learner. That’s what I didn’t want. Anyway, the film had some good effects like creating more awareness,” he shrugs.

The 48-year-old educator-actor-writer-painter says his parents and teachers were a great influence in his growing years. Amole grew up in a modern household with both parents working and strong influences of Marathi literature and theatre. “Besides, three teachers — Nikumbh Sir in art, Naamwar Singh, a poet and my Hindi teacher, and J A Acharya, my English teacher — influenced me deeply.” TZP is a tribute to Amole’s art teacher and Aamir’s character in the film is called Nikumbh Sir.

Plunge into theatre

Amole went on to study commerce and came into contact with Mahendra Joshi, a prominent theatre personality, and took the plunge into theatre. Eventually, he was invited to act in N C Thade’s diploma film Chakar Chandu Ka Chameliwala at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. The film went on to win the National Award and Amole fell in love with the institute. “The FTII is really like the Bermuda Triangle. I stayed there for 12 years and used to earn Rs. 30 a day as fees for ‘imported’ talent, people like me who were invited to act in their films! Then one day, I suddenly realised a generation had passed by. So I left.” Amole moved on to be a gallery painter and did commissioned works for architects. “But I decided to roll up my ‘roti’ art too (referring to art for money) and started taking art to kids.”

After so many years, what made him decide to face the camera for Kaminey? “It was a simple call from Vishal Bhardwaj’s office. The best part was I had to shoot only for 14 days. Acting is a science, I just applied myself. Eventually, we shot for 35 days!” he laughs.

Currently, the man is back to doing what he’s best at. Working with children. He is finalising the script for his film Sapnon Ko Ginte Ginte with a host of children roped in from his workshops in schools, orphanages and anganwadis. “It’s a spirited film that talks about a blinkered mindset and inequality. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time. And this time I have no problem of who’s going to produce and market my film. I already have some people queued up,” he says, sounding happy as the man in control.