Between struggling with commerce lessons and accounting tables — in preparation of his forthcoming class 12 boards — 18-year-old Mohammad Sammad has had to also mug up lines for a film, and practice cricket for at least two hours every day. Sammad, who calls himself a “lucky, accidental actor” has had a stellar year. He played a precocious 12-year-old and also the dying grandmother in the horror film, Tumbbad, and earned rave reviews for his rendition of Pandurang in the film. Next up was the role of Manju Nath in Netflix’s Selection Day, where he plays an upcoming cricketer, who deals with a controlling father, sexuality and a new social order.
Did he always want to act? “Actually no. Main dekhta tha filmein, but never had aspirations to act. It was all a matter of luck. I was selected out of 200 kids after some workshops, when the team of Gattu, directed by Rajan Khosa, came to conduct auditions in my school. Sab chance ki baat thi,” says Sammad, who divides his time between Roorkee and Mumbai. “The final scene, which I think clinched the role for me, was done off camera. I had to search for my lost goat, and cry. It’s only after shooting for Gattu, that I actually thought, yeh main kar sakta hun,” says Sammad who was all of 12, when he got selected for Gattu. Post Gattu he landed Tumbbad — the fantasy horror film set in Maharashtra in which a family seeks a jinxed ancestral treasure — and Shlok Sharma’s Haramkhor.
Sammad is the younger of two siblings and lives in a joint family, with a grandmother, aunt and uncle. His businessman father deals with property as well as dry fruits. “My father wanted ‘safe’ career options for me. And Mumbai is very far. But my mother and grandmother convinced him. They are my biggest supporters,” he adds.
It’s with Tumbbad that Sammad found himself in the big league. “I, till date, don’t really know why they asked me. It was a difficult shoot, especially the ones inside the ‘womb’, where even breathing seemed like a task. When I saw myself on screen, I felt a hint of pride. I felt good that I was able to pull those roles off. I was very young and inexperienced when we shot the film,” says Sammad.
While Tummbad had him dealing with a multi-layered narrative, with an all-adult cast, in the recent Selection Day he is with people his own age and is seen talking about issues related to young adults. “Selection Day shoots are a lot more fun. It’s a different vibe all together when you are working with people your age, as opposed to working with an adult team. You can’t really talk to adults. But it’s not easy – I am not athletic, I had to practice cricket for hours for five months, build my stamina and also work on my physique. I also got to meet Sachin Tendulkar on the sets. I had previously worked with Rajesh sir (Tailang), in a short film, so we were pretty comfortable,” adds Sammad, who is reprising his role in the forthcoming second season.
Sammad’s story gives hope to many who harbour dreams of Mumbai. “I haven’t struggled much. I was represented by good agents and mangers. I have met other young actors who are struggling and have asked me to help them find work. I am blessed and very grateful,” he says. Sammad maintains, that while the exterior of show business is glitzy, it takes a while to reap the awards. “I have heard stories of people getting rich, even as children and young actors. My lifestyle is still the same. I do the same chores around the house, fetch anda-bread-milk for my mother when she asks me to,” adds Sammad.
Questions about his future plans are met with an earnest “I want to do good work”. “I don’t want to become a Khan, but I want to work with them for sure. And yes, I am being slightly selective. I am not saying yes to everything. I am not even doing advertisements,” says Sammad, who is now busy shooting for Maya Sabha, Rahi Anil Barve’s next in which he plays Javed Jaafri’s son.