Dipesh Jain’s Gali Guleiyan which open this Friday features the adolescent non-actor Om Singh as a victim of child abuse.
Significantly Om suffered domestic violence of the most brutal kind in the hands of his real-life father and brother until he could take it no more.
“Om ran away from home to escape the violence,” reveals the LA-based young director Dipesh Jain. “I auditioned close to 2,000 kids. We had a big casting team recruited to find the child actor. Finally we found Om at the Salaam Balak Trust in Delhi.Om is a real-life victim of child abuse who ran away from home, just like the character Idris that Om plays,” says Dipesh.
Dipesh says it took a while for the child to open up . “I got goosebumps when he told me his story. Intitially he was very shy and refused to talk.To make him comfortable, I spent 2 months during pre-production with him.We hung out together , had lunches , built a relationship of trust. Then he slowly started opening up and telling his story. And I began moulding my screenplay to fit his reality.”
Dipesh would consult the boy to ensure Om’s reality matched with the situation of the character he played. “Om would tell me whether it was right or not. He’s a brilliant kid. Such a high emotional quotient .After shooting he acquired great self-confidence. He’s a total rock star.”
Dipesh has taken charge of Om’s future. “He’s working hard. My family has offered to look after him and pay for his education. Right now he just wants to do theatre. If he’s good he’ll become an actor in future. He’s also studying hard. He’s slowly healing and getting over his past wounds. He had difficulty remembering things.But now he is in good health.”
The target is to give Om the education he never had. “The Salaam Balak Trust is associated with the Lawrence School , Sanawar. I’ve advised Om to study hard and get into Sanawar. We are there to support him in every way possible.”
Let’s hope Om Singh has a future beyond the fame of his celluloid outing. Otherwise who remembers those wonder-kids in Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay and Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire? And what happened to the amazing little Sunny Pawar who just a year ago was the toast of Hollywood after he stole the show from Dev Patel in Lion?