In 2008, TV gave rise to a new superstar. Unlike her predecessor, she was all of 10 years old but soon Avika Gor became the cynosure of all eyes, and of course, the youngest protagonist of any soap. As Anandi of Balika Vadhu fame, Avika Gor is arguably the most popular female TV star today.
Gor’s success forced TV producer to woo little children with candies. After all, they realised that success lied in finding more Anandis. So, we were introduced to the Ichchas (Sparsh), Krishnas (Dhriti Bhatia) and the Antaras (Zaynah). of the world.
The trend continues as TV has unearthed yet another little superstar. She’s not a balika vadhu, or an autistic child but say hello to Kashi, a scheduled caste from ta remote village of Bihar.
Playing this envious character is an 8-year-old Muslim girl named Jannat Zubair Rahmani. Kashi’s innocence has won her many fans and praise from critics too who are already hailing Jannat as the finest child actor in many years.
In an exclusive chat with TellyCafe’s Mayur Lookhar, Jannat, like a true kid, answers mainly in one sentence. Her father Zubair, who himself was an unheralded actor from Lucknow, comes to her daughter’s aide intermittently. Read on.
Your name is Jannat but your onscreen life is nothing less than any hell. Isn’t it unfair for someone named Jannat to be playing such a role?
No. All I’m doing is acting. This is a TV show and merely acting in it.
Prior to this show, did you know what is scheduled caste or untouchability?
No, I didn’t have any understanding. All, my father told me that this is a good show and I’ll be spreading a good message.
What is your understanding of this issue now?
Now ,I know that not all children are as lucky as me to get education. Girls in every household have a right to education no matter which caste do they belong to. I’m happy to spread such a message.
Have your school mates treated you differently post this show?
I’m no longer called by my real name. Everyone in school calls me Kashi. I like being called Kashi.
You seem to be pretty comfortable speaking in a rural accent. Is this natural or have you acquired it?
Ah! My father has taught me everything. I merely follow what he says. He’s been guiding me since the last few years
Do you think you’re competing with Anandi?
No, I don’t know about that but unlike Balika Vadhu, our show has a social message. Balika Vadhu is all about one family but here we’re speaking for all underprivileged girls.
(Jannat’s father Zubair Rahmani steps in to comprehend this question)
Zubair: Competition is there but unfortunately, we’ve been hit by IPL. After it, I’m confident that Kashi will compete with Balika Vadhu. There’s a social message in Balika too, but I firmly believe that Kashi is the show that will bring down Balika Vadhu.
Tell me about your background.
I’m 8 years old. I study in class 3 from Oxford school. We’re from Lucknow. My father himself was an actor and he’s my guiding force. I’ve been into entertainment since the last two years. My first TV show was Aladin, Thereafter; I’ve acted in Chand ke paar chalo, Kasturi and Aapki Antara.
How do you manage studies and work?
It’s tough to go to school daily, so I carry my worksheets with me to the sets. The production team looks after me well. Luckily, my exams are over and I can now concentrate on my work.
What’s the real Jannat like?
I’m pretty much like Kashi. I love to read, act and dance.
What’s your dream?
I want to be an actor only. (Jannat’s father steps in again)
Zubair: As an actor, I couldn’t make it big. I came to Mumbai to do business, so I gave up my passion. However, I want my child to live my dream. Even at 8, acting is her profession. Those parents who say that they are merely fulfilling their child’s hobby are simply lying. I have no shame in saying that even at 8; I want my child to take this as a profession.
-Mayur Lookhat/ Sampurn Wire