Shams Patel plays a Salman Khan fan in Thanks Maa. He also happens to be one in real life. The boy who has won this year's National Award for Best Child Actor confesses he has made his parents relieved and proud. "I'm very average at my studies. So they feel at least I've made a name for myself in another field. My parents are very excited. I'm too. But nothing compared to them."
Shams belongs to a business family with no background in cinema. "I got the role in Thanks Maa because the director Irrfan Kamal is my mama (uncle)," Shams confessed candidly. "He asked me to audition along with many other hopefuls. I had no acting experience. My interests are football and cricket, not acting. But when my uncle told me try my luck, I decided, why not? I never thought I'd get the role. After I got the role, I attended workshops."
Even more of a surprise was the National Award. "I was thrilled with the award. If it wasn't for Irrfan Sir (director Irrfan Kamal) and Abhay Sir (acting coach Abhay Joshi), I wouldn't be here."
"Here" is of course a state of the mind, since no one close to Shams has seen Thanks Maa. "None of my friends in school have seen the film, or even know about it. They're too young to watch it. So there's no question of being treated special. Yeah, my two elder sisters saw the film. They started crying."
Shams admits that he wasn't familiar with the slum setting of the film. "But 50 other kids from the slums came for the workshop. I observed them and their way of talking. I copied them. I saw their emotions and used them. I was very moved by the way the people live in the slums. The clothes they wear, food that they eat and the language they speak in the slums was all a new experience for me. I came away from the film as a different person."
Shams was 12 when they shot Thanks Maa. He gets guarded when asked about Danny Boyle's slum saga. "I've seen Slumdog Millionaire. Thanks Maa is totally different. Of course the characters and clothings of us slum kids is the somewhat the same as their picture. But, our storyline is totally different." Shams had a great time shooting with the five kids who play his friends in Thanks Maa. "While the shooting lasted, we were like brothers and sisters. But now I'm not in touch with them. Now I'm just concentrating on my studies."
Spoken like a true professional, Shams confesses, "I'm not much interested in acting. But I do watch films and am a huge fan of Salman Khan. After Thanks Maa, I'll meet Salman for sure. I don't know what will be the outcome of the film. Lekin kuch to hona chahiye." Shams Patel, who has won the National Award for Best Child Actor in the film Thanks Maa, is upset because he hasn't been allowed to watch his own film.
"Will you please talk to the censor board?" requests the 13-year old National Award winner, now on the verge of exasperation as the day of his film's release approaches. "Thanks Maa has been given an 'A' certificate. Wohi toh problem hai. I can't watch my own film for the next five years. Will you ask them to change it to a 'U/A' certificate, so I could see my film accompanied by my parents? Ideally, I want to watch it with my friends."