At only 10-years-old, Darsheel Safary had become a national household name after his first film, Taare Zameen Par (2007) hit the screens. The child actor won several awards for his performance on-screen, including the Filmfare Critic’s Award for Best Actor and the Zee Cine Most Promising Debut (Best Child Artist). In a recent interview, the now-26-years-old actor opened up on the negative effect that the vastness of love and fame he received as a child had on his mental health.
In a conversation with Siddharth Kannan, Darsheel talked about his upcoming film, Hukus Bukus, and his life since Taare Zameen Par.
The curious reason behind Darsheel Safary’s selection for Taare Zameen Par
Perhaps one of the most important movies in Bollywood which brought mental health disorders to the forefront in a delicate manner, Taare Zameen Par revolves around the story of an 8-year-old boy, Ishaan Awasthi (played by Darsheel) who has dyslexia. The young boy is guided by his art teacher, Ram Shankar Nikumbh (played by Aamir Khan), who helps him understand the mental health disorder and teaches him all subjects using unconventional teaching methods.
Director Amol Gupte found Darsheel at Shiamak Davar’s dancing school Summer Funk. Gupte auditioned many boys for the role of the male child lead and asked them to describe how they would bunk schools, given a few scenarios. Darsheel was chosen because he had “the mischief in his eyes to be Ishaan”.
The negative effect of Taare Zameen Par’s success on Darsheel
In his interview, Kanan asked Darsheel if he was negatively impacted by fame and success as a child actor after Taare Zameen Par, much like Macaulay Caulin (lead child actor in Home Alone) had been.
Darsheel nodded and shared that strangers the age of his parents and grandparents had approached him and looked at him with a lot of love, which confused and overwhelmed him. “I’m feeling the shivers talking about this right now”, the actor stated in his interview.
The actor shared that for “at least a year” he went home to his grandparents and “cried every day” because of how overwhelmed he felt. He did not understand what was happening and failed to get what “the hype” was about.
Darsheel said that he watched the film seven-eight times and slept through some of the screenings. He shared that he was too young to understand it.
As he grew up, he was able to understand what Taare Zameen Par was about and decided to take the difficult emotions he had experienced in his stride. He stated how he decided to remember the emotions and used them in his craft to act.
Darsheel’s work post Taare Zameen Par
The actor shared that he felt pressured by himself and the audience to “match” or “break” his performance in Taare Zameen Par. He appeared in three films as a child following this; Bumm Bumm Bole (2010), Disney India’s superhero film Zokkomon (2011) and Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children (2012). None of these were commercially successful. The actor also shared how it was difficult for him to balance working in films while also being a school student.
Darsheel then decided to take a break from films and started seeking therapy when he was 18-years-old.
In college, the actor discovered the world of theater and decided to pursue dramas and plays for about 8 years to “find [his] inner actor”. He also shared that he now talks often to his sister about his mental health; who has an academic background in Psychology.
Darsheel’s upcoming film Hukus Bukus
Hukus Bukus is Vinay Bhardwaj’s directorial debut, which is set to be released this month. The name of the film comes from a Kashmiri folk song of the same name, which questions the need for violence when ‘you and I have been made by the same God’. The film marries the subjects of spirituality and sports.
Darsheel plays the role of a die-hard Sachin Tendulkar fan in the film, and stated how he sees himself in the struggles of the character he is playing.