“Kavi” is the story of bonded labourers and the hard life they lead. It is the story of how life offers very few choices for these people who make bricks all day long.
You could say that it is cricket that made Sagaar Salunke. After all he was discovered while playing cricket in the slums of Jogeshwari, a suburb in Mumbai. He is no player on the field though. At 14, he is an actor whose second movie has won an Oscar nomination (at the time of going to press). He plays the central role of Kavi, in American director Gregg Helvey's movie titled “Kavi”, nominated in the Best Live Action Short Film category in the 82nd Academy Awards.
For Sagaar the walk to glory has been long and hard. After all, living in a slum with no running water or clean toilets isn't fun.
A lot changed after he bagged a role playing Nandita Das' son in the movie “Bits and Pieces”. “The story is a sad one,” he says, “She is accused of being mad and I run away to call for help. Finally Rahul Bose rescues her.”
This got him an audition for the role of Kavi. He wasn't scared of the lights or camera, as “this was my second time round and I was quite used to it. Actually I didn't really know I was supposed to act. I just did whatever they asked me to do. I was told to walk around and talk to plants. I was thrilled when I was told I was going to play Kavi.”
Kavi, the movie, centres on the lives of bonded labourers. Men, women and children who work long hours, have little money and even less freedom. For Kavi who would rather play cricket and go to school than make bricks all day, life is a trial.
Sagaar says the portrayal was an eye opener in ways more than one: “I didn't know such things happened in our country, I feel bad for such children and wish I could help better their situation.”
The story inspires him since it's about Kavi who doesn't take things lying down. “He helps free the entire lot of workers,” says Sagaar proudly. His favourite scene is the one where he tears his handcuffs off and runs out.
His acting prowess left the professionals in the unit gaping. “There was one shot where I was beaten and locked up. I didn't require any glycerine to do it. I was asked to think of the saddest moment in my life and I thought of the time Dad had a heart attack. There was no money and we were very worried,” he says.
Shooting with a foreign director who spoke only English didn't faze him. English is his favourite subject even though he doesn't speak it well. “People explained what I had to do. Besides after working for a while we could communicate even though he doesn't know any Hindi,” laughs Sagaar.
And it wasn't just movies. He developed an insatiable taste for Good Day Biscuits and would often refuse to shoot if he wasn't obliged. “I would sometimes eat 10 to 12 packets a day,” he reminisces, “I still love them but don't eat quite as much.”
Staying away from school for so long is a problem but Sagaar manages. His favourite actor is Aamir Khan. “I want to be like him,” he says, “I will make one movie a year and it will go to the Oscars!”