He played the young Lucky in Dibakar Banerjees Oye Lucky,Lucky Oye with spunk but off screen Manjot Singh is just another teenager nervous about his board exams
The story goes that the casting director of Dibakar Banerjees Oye Lucky,Lucky Oye,rejected Manjot Singh for the role of the boy who grows up to be master thief Lucky. As we meet the actor in his home in east Delhis Hargobind Enclave,we feel a pang of sympathy for the bloke who got it so wrong. For,it has to be said,the 16-year-old in front of us is nothing like the street-smart kid in Banerjees film. Theres none of the sass that crackled on screen in his scenes with Paresh Rawal. Hes just another teenager,a little worried about his class X board exams next month. He smiles shyly,darting swift looks at his mother sitting across from him on the sofa as he answers questions,and blushes pink when we ask him if he has a girlfriend.
So how did he land up on screen? Manjots father,a businessman,got to know that Banerjee and his team were in Delhi scouting for actors and asked his son if he wanted to try it out. So I went to Saket for an audition thought I had never acted before,even in school plays, Manjot says. When we prod him about what he had to do at the audition,he mumbles,Bas kuch lines bolni thi. Mother Darshan Kaur intervenes matter-of-factly. They asked you to propose someone,didnt they? she says,before adding apologetically,He is very shy.
After the end of the audition,Banerjee says,he knew he had found his Lucky. Even though the casting director wasnt convinced,I just put my foot down, the director says. He was right and how. Manjots Lucky,an incredible mix of spunk and vulnerability,was the scene-stealer of the movie,even giving Abhay Deol a run for his money.
From the audition,Manjot went to Manali for a weeklong acting workshop. We did a lot of rehearsals there. I was asked to observe the way Abhay Deol walked,smiled and talked so that I could imitate that in my acting, he says. He even wore a cheek pad so that his jaw would look as broad as Deols.
Back in Delhi,they shot on various locations in the city,from Sarai Rohilla to Vasant Kunj. When I first faced the camera,I was a little jitttery. But as I spoke my lines,the nervousness vanished. Throughout the shoot,I canned scenes in two to three takes only, he says. (Manjots elder brother,21-year-old Sehebjot,also plays a bit role in the movie,as Luckys younger brother,the only one in his family who agrees to attend his wedding.)
But when Manjot saw himself on screen at a cinema nearby,he says,My heart was hammering loudly. His favourite scene is when Lucky meets his girl in the card shop to buy a greeting card.
And yes,he digs life after Oye Lucky. He likes the fact that people recognise him on the roads,that friends and family often slip from calling him Manjot to Lucky in the middle of a conversation. Two girls in his school have already proposed to him,he gets requests to make special appearances at weddings and functions. His caller tune is but,of course,the song Oye Lucky. When I first told my friends I was acting in a film,they sniggered. Now I even give autographs to people, he says.
Manjot has a small role in Imtiaz Alis next film and is certain he wants to be an actor when he grows up. I want to work with big banners, he says,slipping into the lingo of Bollywood. Casting directors wont think twice.