Twinkle, twinkle, little stars

THE CHILDREN'S Film Festival got rolling in the city, sprinkling little stars all the way. In fact, they were the only saving grace of the lacklustre inaugural.

To watch the new kids on the tinsel block, the screen heroes and heroines of the children's films, sit along with other children at the screening of the inaugural film, `Malli', a captivating scene in itself.

Like ten-year old multi-award winner Swetha, the girl who got transformed into `Malli' on screen. The girl from Holy Angels School is no newcomer to cinema. She's acted in eight commercial films apart from `Malli'.

Did you know she was introduced by Bharathi Raja, who probably holds the record for maximum star actress launches. Little Swetha and her brother Raghav acted in `Anthi Mantharai'. ``He predicted that she would make it big,'' Swetha's dad Mr. Padmanabhan recalls. ``Now his prediction has come true,'' he says.

Swetha won the Best Child Artiste award at the National and the International Children's film Festival in Poland. ``I want to be a doctor,'' says Swetha. And what about acting?

``I want to do only art films,'' she says. So what difference does she see between art and commercial cinema? ``In commercial films, they don't respect child artistes. They don't see the performance. In art films, the performance is given importance,'' Swetha believes.

Swetha had a big role in `Manam Virumbude Unnai' and a cameo in `Bharathi Kannamma', `Sathi Sanam'. Santhosh Sivan needed no convincing after she gave her a screen test and she metamorphosised into a tribal girl on screen.Wasn't she scared of the forest and the animals? ``No it was so thrilling. I'm not scared of the animals. When I was carrying the fawn, it was jumping. But I wasn't scared,'' she says.

Swetha's personal favourite is Kamal Hassan. ``I want to do more films with all directors and get an Oscar,'' says Swetha. Remember, `Malli' finally gets the `Neelakal' (blue stone) that she dreams of. Like Malli, Swetha believes she will get her stone (Oscar) one day.

Eleven-year old Dhaneshwar Rao was riding a cycle when director K.Hariharan spotted him. ``The minute I saw him, I knew he was the guy I was looking for,'' the director recalls.

Dhaneshwar Rao incidentally, plays Gopal Rao who aspires for a cycle in `Dubashi', which is also a part of the film festival. He was then going to the TNPL Matriculation Higher Secondary School on his BSA Dino cycle.

Now, little Dhaneshwar and his family have migrated to Chennai for the sake of his ``career''. Yes, Dhaneshwar wants to be an actor. Not an art film hero. He wants do lot of ``fights'', and ``dance'' in Tamil and English films. Not Hindi, because he can't talk Hindi.

But right now, he wants to act and study at the same time. Before the film, he wanted to be an engineer. Today, he studies at Chettinad Vidyashram with dreams to make it big in tinseltown. His current favourite is Prabhu Deva because superstar Rajnikant is ``getting old''.

B. S. Karthik who plays Gopal Rao's diffident elder brother Raghu has similar dreams. He's even done a print ad before the film. Karthik now studies in standard XII in Mowbrays Matriculation Higher Secondary School. After school, he intends getting into a Visual Communication course, and then go abroad for a course in Direction. `Dubashi', to him was an eye-opener. ``It taught me how tough it was to make a film''.

Not that Karthik is into making art films. Karthik, who adores Rajnikant and, of late, Ajit, has plans for mainstream cinema. He wants to be ``romantic hero'' and but believes that mainstream cinema today lacks good direction and acting.

By Sudhish Kamath