Series exploring the everyday lives of children who go to work. Kaajel Patel from Leicester finds out about child performers working in the Bollywood film industry.
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Every day of the week,
200 million children around the world go out to work.
Children who work in circuses in Russia.
On chocolate plantations in Africa.
Children who work in Bollywood.
And children who want to be Africa's next big football star.
Welcome to the world of Children At Work.
I'm Kaajal. I am 20 and I'm from Leicester.
My biggest passion in life is Bollywood.
I have been doing Bollywood-style dance since I was six years old,
and have worked as a professional dancer.
For the next week, I will be in Mumbai in South India
to experience a world of children who work in Bollywood.
As well as those who aspire to.
I'll be meeting the kids from Mumbai's slums who dream of making it big.
And I'll be spending time with some of India's new young stars -
..and Afsha Musani.
Around the world, children who work in the acting profession face all sorts of challenges.
How did these girls cope with the pressures of fame,
and juggle their careers with education and friendships?
And what does Bollywood mean to the Indian population,
a melting pot of caste, religion, ethnicity and economic extremes?
I'm going to find out what it's like for children
who work in one of the biggest television and film industries in the world - Bollywood.
I've travelled 4,500 miles to Mumbai,
the entertainment capital of India.
Mumbai is huge, with a population of 20.5 million -
that's almost three times as many as London.
It used to be called Bombay, and this is where Bollywood gets its name from -
a fusion of Bombay and Hollywood.
Bollywood produced over 100 films last year.
Along with its little sister, the TV industry, its output is huge.
Keeping a country of 1.1 billion entertained.
Mumbai is a city of dreams
and people flock here from all over India
in search of wealth, success and fame.
The competition is fierce, and only a lucky few make it.
My family come from India, but I haven't been since I was five.
I have always been fascinated with my cultural heritage, though,
and Bollywood has always been a part of that.
It feels really different.
Since I got here, the weather change hit me, the smells are different,
everything just completely beautiful and amazing.
There are so many billboards up here.
Like, really famous Bollywood actresses and actors.
I'm really, really excited about the next week,
actually getting to know some people, young people, that actually live here.
I'm not sure what they'll think of me with my multicoloured hair!
They'll probably think I'm strange to begin with.
I think it's a way of expressing myself.
Just like dance, just like art.
Just like Bollywood.
In India, it's not unusual for children to work.
An estimated 100 million are engaged in some kind of labour,
and conditions can be tough.
The children I'll be meeting in Bollywood are part of an elite -
a tiny minority of those who work here every day.
The first girl who I'm going to meet is the youngest of the three,
Afsha, who is eight years old and has been performing
since she was just five.
THEY SPEAK IN HINDI
At the moment, she's a character in a comedy TV series
based on a cartoon strip by India's most loved cartoonist - RK Laxman.
Afsha plays the granddaughter of the main character.
Nice to meet you. I'm Kaajal.
'Afsha gives me a tour and introduces me to some of her on-screen family.'
-Is she good on the set, is she very good at acting?
-She is very good.
She is a brilliant actress. She understands the scene very well.
The only thing that...
Whenever they are making her understand the shot,
at that time she is like this.
'I've only just met her,
'but it's obvious how popular she is amongst the cast.'
Who's this character?
This is her on-screen dad.
She is a wonderful actress, a wonderful singer. And...
THEY SPEAK IN HINDI:
She gets great food from home, and I love that food.
Chicken fried rice, she didn't give it to me. She forgot.
She forgot to give it to me. OK, that's fine. That's on record. Good.
ACTORS CALLED TO TAKE POSITIONS
-SHOUTING AND CHEERING
They're shooting a scene now, and it's parents' sports day at school.
And I think her character's dad has just won!
She looks really confident, like, unbelievably.
Such a small, cute girl, but she's really got her head together.
Afsha has to reshoot the scene lots of times,
but finally I get to chat with her a bit more when she is touching up her make-up.
SHE SPEAKS IN HINDI
Afsha was discovered during the kids' talent show L'il Champs at just six years old.
Her natural charm and comedy timing won her the role of co-host on the show.
So what's the best thing about being in a Bollywood actress?
The best thing is that I am coming on television and...
It's like everything is good, in fact, I can't tell you.
Although India's labour laws say and children under the age of 14
should only work a maximum of six hours a day,
and should receive education, in Bollywood they work much longer hours.
I ask Afsha's parents if they worry about this.
SHE SPEAKS IN HINDI:
There are a lot of children working on the shoot today.
Most of them are extras, and there's a lot of waiting around for them,
and it's really hot! It's a sizzling 39 degrees.
So what's the best thing about doing this job?
-We are very happy by doing this job.
-So, do you do auditions?
-Do you enjoy doing auditions?
-Oh, really? Because there are so many people there?
And it's not just the kids who have to hang around.
Their parents have to wait patiently, too.
So I asked some of the mums
what sacrifices their children have to make.
SHE SPEAKS IN HINDI:
She's such a cute girl.
Really professional, really strong and a really good actress, actually.
To be honest, it was a very, very long day.
It was about 12 hours and it was really, really hot.
I mean, it's a lot for an eight-year-old to do.
I'm going to visit Afsha and her family who live in a mainly Muslim area in Mumbai.
In India, there are many religions.
And 80% of the population is Hindu,
and 13%, Muslim, like Afsha's family.
'When I arrive, Afsha is out playing with her friends.'
That's not fair!
-You want to see our bedroom?
My trophy when I was in L'il Champs. It was my first show.
'She shows me a performance she did at just two years old.'
I can't believe you knew all the words.
How did you even know how to talk at that age?
When Afsha's parents first moved to Mumbai,
her dad, who is a civil engineer, was earning just £12 per month.
They had other struggles, too.
Within Mumbai, there are tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities
and they felt the impact of being from a religious minority.
SHE SINGS IN HINDI
'Afsha's earnings contribute to a large part of the family income, which has transformed their lives.
'It's important for Afsha's parents that she doesn't have to face
'the same problems that they did when they came to Mumbai.
'And they think by being a part of Bollywood, she has that chance.'
I've been struck by the contrast between the rapidly growing wealth of Mumbai and its intense poverty.
Where skyscrapers spring up next to slums.
And aspiring cricketers or potential movie stars
can be found in the poorest back streets.
This morning, I am on my way to one of Mumbai's most unusual acting schools.
I found out about it just by chance whilst reading the morning newspaper.
So I have just read in the newspaper of this man
who's got an acting school in the middle of the biggest slum in Mumbai.
There's approximately 40 children,
some of which can't actually afford to pay for the services.
The slum is called Dharavi. It's one of the largest in the world
with about three quarters of a million people living there.
It featured in the Oscar-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire.
MUSIC: "Jai Ho"
Some of the children cast in the film were students from the 5 Star acting school
that I'd just read about in the paper and where I'm headed off to now.
The school is tiny, just two rooms.
But its impact on the lives of the children who come here goes far beyond its walls.
Thanks to the man who runs it. Baburao loves it.
-Hi, nice to meet you. I am Kaajal.
My name is Baburao Ladsaheb.
-Can I join in?
Baburao is a bit of a legend around here.
The school is actually his family home.
The students who can afford to pay £5 a month for their classes.
Those who can't, don't have to.
So why do you kids come to this classroom?
SHE SPEAKS IN HINDI:
There's a real mix of kids here. Some better off than others.
But they all share a love of performing.
TRANSLATION: It's everyone's dream to become a famous actor.
50% of them really desire this dream.
We try to make it a reality by teaching them the skills they need in acting, dancing and fighting.
The kids seem to really enjoy his classes, and so does he.
TRANSLATION: Teaching them makes me happy.
Baburao's classes are watched over by Ganesh, the popular Hindu god,
with the head of an elephant.
I've heard it's Bollywood's favourite god.
I want to know why.
TRANSLATION: Before we start work, we worship Lord Ganesh.
He blesses us with his artistic skills.
Everybody in our culture worships Ganesh,
because we get motivation from him which helps us progress.
India is a country where religion permeates everything.
And Mumbai is a city that has social as well as religious divides.
I ask Baburao if there's any prejudice against the kids
from the slums when they try to make it in Bollywood.
And his answer surprises me.
TRANSLATION: People of many different castes
and religions work together in Bollywood.
Bollywood sees no differences whether Hindu, Muslim or Christian. Everyone is welcome.
Because actors from different castes and religions get work,
it gives a sense of unity to the whole of India.
And he has experienced this directly.
Since the Dharavi slum and some of its children appeared in Slumdog Millionaire,
he feels public perceptions of the slum have improved dramatically.
It's been really interesting to hear about the unifying
nature of Bollywood and to meet all these aspiring actors.
But it has made me think, it is so hard to make it and so
ruthless and competitive once you do,
yet it seems the pull of Bollywood is so strong, your dream might just come true.
I'm going to another Bollywood dance class. This time with 14-year-old actress, Ulka Gupta.
A well-known face on India's TV screens, Ulka has been acting since she was seven.
-How are you?
-I am good. You're Ulka?
-And you're Kaajal.
-How are you?
-Very good, thank you.
Kaajal, nice name.
-You learn dance?
-Yeah, I do Bollywood dance.
Oh, so nice. Come, come, try this.
One, two, three, four!
Her father is also an actor and helped Ulka enter the Bollywood industry.
He now manages her career.
I just take a few tips from my daddy. My daddy teaches me.
And what about school?
When I go to shootings, I have to bunk my school. I also don't like it
but then too, with auditions, the look test, for the shootings,
for events and functions, I have to go to different cities of India.
After the dance class, Ulka invites me to her family home.
'I'm looking forward to finding out more about what life
'is like being a young celebrity.'
If you become popular, that is a great thing.
The greatest thing on earth.
Even if two persons know you, you feel it is great.
But when the whole India, the whole country or state knows you,
because of something good you have done, it's a great thing for you.
Ulka rocketed to fame
when she was given the lead role in the TV series Jhansi Ki Rhani in 2009.
This was a very big break for me.
I never imagined that I'd be Jhansi Ki Rhani in some sort of serial.
I feel very proud.
But I'm looking forward for other roles, not always Jhansi Ki Rhani,
to become a versatile actor.
So, would you say, you know, the Bollywood industry,
being a child actor, is it quite a competitive industry?
Very much. When you have actors of your age,
jealousy is a thing in everyone.
So the only thing you have to do there is be
the best in your performance.
This makes me wonder how Ulka deals with friendships.
If anyone comes before me, approaching me for friendship,
it is only because they want to become an actor.
They will always try to approach me.
They will be very friendly to me, they will be very good to me.
And then the time comes, they say,
"Ulka, can I get the numbers of the directors and the producers?
"I want to come into this industry." Even if I don't have good friends, my brothers and sisters
and my parents are the best friends of mine.
Ulka's schedule is jam-packed and exhausting.
And like other busy Bollywood kids,
it's not always possible for her to attend school during regular hours.
After a really full day, she must now head off to one of her classes
and it's six o'clock at night!
I am very, very impressed with Ulka.
She seems very professional, very mature, very focused on education as well as her career.
I think she's just a bright spark.
I'm on my way to meet Ayesha, who is 15 and has just appeared
in a huge blockbuster movie, Agneepath, which means path of fire.
Ayesha has been working in the industry
since she was seven years old
and this has been a really big break for her.
At the moment,
Ayesha is working on a historical drama series about the great warrior
and freedom fighter, Veer Shivaji.
Ayesha plays his wife when he is a young man.
I'm meeting Ayesha at the train station, and she is taking me
along to have a look at the set.
As an actress, Ayesha has to travel a lot - for auditions, public appearances, photo shoots
and to filming locations which can often be remote.
Her mum always goes with her.
Today we have to travel two hours to get to the studio.
And even though it is hot and packed,
I really enjoy travelling by train and seeing more of India.
Because Ayesha travels so much,
she has to keep on top of her schoolwork on the run.
So Ayesha and I are now approaching the location where her TV serial is shot.
There's a battle scene going on right now. So she is not actually taking part.
But she is going to show me around so I'm really excited.
-These are Shivaji's horses.
That one's Abluk. His name's Abluk.
Yeah, I love you, too. SHE LAUGHS
So what's the best thing for you, being a Bollywood actress?
Ayesha's make-up includes a Bindi,
which is a small decoration worn in the centre of the forehead.
It's often used as a symbol of the marital status of a woman.
It's really interesting, actually,
watching you getting your make-up done.
It is a lot different than I thought it would be.
And it's a lot quicker. These guys know what they're doing.
You look amazing. You're really, really beautiful.
Ayesha's experiences on sets have generally been positive.
And she seems to balance her work life and education really well,
but Ulka's father feels that there is a lot more that needs to
be done to protect child actors on shoots.
During one of Ulka's earlier jobs, he had to take firm action.
HE SPEAKS IN HINDI:
By confronting the producers,
he has helped to improve standards in an industry
where normal child labour regulations of six hours work a day don't apply.
That's the Mogul army people.
Some productions, like this one, have introduced a 12-hour day for children.
But there is still exploitation within the industry.
I've enjoyed today so much, just walking through the location and looking at all the sets.
Getting to know the people and the actors.
It is really, really exciting. And very, very glamorous, I have to say.
-Hi. Um, that's Kaajal.
-Very nice to meet you.
I recognise a lot of people
from series that my mum watches. So it's nice to say "Hello. I'm Kaajal."
I didn't expect so many people to be involved in this production.
It's eye-opening to know every single tiny little bit needs so much attention.
It has to be perfect in order to be broadcast
so the whole of India can watch it. It has to be dot on. It is amazing.
I have met lots of child actors now
and I have spoken to all three girls about their busy schedules.
That's the main focus because that's what they're doing all the time,
travelling from one place, and to the next place.
Doing shooting all the time and also thinking about their education.
I remember when I was 15, I had school,
a family life and a home life and I had some rehearsals.
But it was nowhere near as much as what these girls do.
I do not know how they manage with the things that they do.
It's been a great week
and I have got to see behind the scenes of a world I love.
This place of dreams, it's allowed these girls into its embrace.
But I do wonder, is there a price to pay?
And is that price the loss of childhood?
And for the few children that do succeed,
there are thousands waiting in line for their lucky break.
But I have learned something about Bollywood that sets it apart.
Because it doesn't discriminate against caste or religion,
it can bring about change.
Bollywood is not just an industry, it's a national institution
that unites this huge diverse country of 1.1 billion people.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Two hundred million children around the world go to work every day. This series explores their everyday lives. In Mumbai, south India, 20-year-old Kaajel Patel from Leicester finds out about the world of child performers in Bollywood. She spends a week following the lives of three girls who all work within the television and film industry - Ayesha, aged 15, Ulka, aged 14, and Afsha, who is only eight. They have all had success in child roles, but they all have different stories to tell.
Kaajel finds out how these girls cope with the pressures of fame, the competition and what it is like having pushy parents. She sees how the glamour of on-screen life contrasts with their everyday lives, and asks how these young girls manage their busy working lives around education, auditions and friendships. Plus, she sees how their work is supporting their families to give them all a better life.
Mumbai is a city of dreams, and people flock there from all over India in search of wealth, success and fame. But competition is fierce and only a lucky few make it. As Bollywood continues to grow into one of the biggest television and film industries in the world, it is creating its own rules and values, which often cut across traditional lines and even prejudice. As Kaajel discovers, Bollywood is not just an industry, it is a national institution that unites a country of 1.1 billion, and talented young actors are an integral part of its appeal.