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IT MAY not be a debut as big as that of Fatima Sana Shaikh or Sanya Malhotra — who are playing the role of Aamir Khan’s onscreen wrestler daughters in Dangal — that hits the screens today, nor, will it bring them instant fame.
But as Aamir’s much-awaited Dangal — biopic of wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and his daughters — hits the screens, it will also be a moment of a lifetime for a handful of those villagers from Punjab who spent nearly three months with the actor and his crew during the shoot and also got small roles.
WATCH | Waiting For Silver Screen Debut Of Dangal: A Barber, A Mechanic, A Halwai
Waiting for their debut is a mechanic, a sweet shop owner (halwai), a naai (barber), a retired PSPCL employee among others. The leaked photographs of the Dangal shoot showed Aamir riding a rickety old scooter in the villages of Punjab. Balbir Singh, 36, a mechanic in Gujjarwal village of Ludhiana, accompanied Aamir wherever he went on the scooter for shooting. It also bagged him the role of a security guard in Dangal. “Aamir sir ne kaha ki scooter de gear nu makhan vang bana do (Aamir told me that the scooter’s gears should be butter smooth). For that old scooter, we extracted old spare parts from other scooters and gave them new ones. I am excited to see how my village looks on screen than my own appearance,” says Balbir, who runs a small mechanic shop.
A small grocery shop owner, Navdeep Singh Sparrow, 45, says, “I was wearing kurta pyjama and having a stroll when Aamir Khan passed by and noticed me. A few minutes later, a crew member came and said Aamir wants to talk. It felt like a dream and it continues to be a dream run. Yes, I want to see if my scene has made it.” Navdeep had to sit on a tractor trolley with Aamir for a scene. “People in neighbouring villages already know me.”
Sweet shop owner (halwaai) Rakesh Kumar alias Kuku Fauji, 60, has shot a scene as a customer at a salon. “I do not care if my scene appears or not. Kiran Rao (Aamir’s wife) having food at my home is enough. It was Diwali and they even tasted my besan ke laddoo and barfi.”
A village barber, Lakhwinder, 45, and his salon have been attracting customers from other villages, too, now. Riding a cycle, he might be seen on screen with Aamir. “For one small scene, we took five to six retakes. A naai like me cannot even think of seeing Aamir Khan in reality, but they wanted real village characters for shooting and I was given a chance.”
“At the fag end of my life, I would feel honoured to appear on screen,” says 72-year-old Mohan Lal Sharma, a retired employee of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited. A local theater artiste in his younger days, he readily agreed to wear Haryanvi attire and play ‘Tau chaudhary’ (village head) in Dangal. So did, Dharampal, 64, whose height got him the role. “The entire village is too excited to see Dangal now, to see how it looks on screen what we saw being shot for three months,” he says.
Nitesh Tiwari, the director, said, “We have given a lot of space to local talent in the film and Punjabi hospitality was unmatched. Hopefully, most of them will see themselves on the screen.”
The villages, where the movie was shot, have decided to retain the Dangal makeover. For instance, Hindi and Haryanvi boards have not been replaced by Punjabi ones.