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Little Champ

Twelve-year-old Japtej Singh on playing the young Flying Sikh in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor |
July 9, 2013 3:43:29 am

When a friend told Chandigarh-based Swaran Singh about auditions for the role of junior Milkha Singh in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,he didn’t pay heed. A caterer for film units,Swaran ignored the opportunity it presented for his 12-year-old son,Japtej. But,on the third and final day of the auditions held in Chandigarh last year,he reluctantly took his son.

“When we reached,there were 200 kids in queue,” says Japtej. His shy and unassuming demeanour,and a naughty twinkle in his eyes perhaps caught the attention of the team. Although a film old (Japtej played Jaswinder Bhalla’s son in Punjabi film Lucky Di Unlucky Story),the auditions made Japtej nervous.

“I didn’t know much about Milkha Singh besides what I had read on the internet. We never studied about him in school. Also,for the audition,no lines were given to us. They told us to be ourselves,and present something. So,I prepared a skit with the help of my father,on what happens when you reach school late,” says Japtej. The skit worked and Japtej was called for the second round of dialogues,after which there was a screen test in Delhi,before Mehra. “All he said was that he had found the young Milkha,” says Japtej,who was selected out of 6,600 boys for the role. Being a Sikh worked in his favour. His happiest moment came when the Flying Sikh himself complimented Japtej,saying,“You remind me of myself in my younger days. I am revisiting my childhood with you.”

Then began the drill — two months of intense training in atheletics and swimming,for his 42-minute role in the film. “The trainer appointed by the film crew would pick me up after school,and take me for practice for two hours every day,” says Japtej. “There are sequences in the film where I am required to run long distances on cobbled streets,even next to a train. Those were tough,” he says. Acting workshops were ruled out,as Mehra wanted a natural performance. Ask about Farhan Akhtar,and Japtej shares how the actor would enquire about his school and studies and toss general knowledge questions at him. For Japtej,everything was just perfect. “I want to be an actor in Hindi films,” he says. “Not before he completes his studies,” says his father,who has the final word. For now,Japtej can’t wait for his school friends at Yadavindra Public School,Mohali,to watch the film on July 12.

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