'Salman and I would play table tennis and drive an ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) while shooting in Karjat. And he made me eat a lot of biryani!'
Child actor Harshaali Malhotra shares her Bajrangi Bhaijaan experience.
She is just seven years old but she touched the hearts of viewers with her endearing performance in Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Yet, child actor Harshaali Malhotra remains unaware of her stardom.
The Mezzo Mezzo restaurant at Mumbai's J W Marriott hotel is bursting with her presence. I can hear screams of delight, as Harshaali -- looking pretty in a pink dress -- plays catch n' cook with a PR girl. After she's had her fill, she settles down with someone's cell phone and plays games.
Harshaali’s mother Kajal Malhotra is an interior designer by profession, and has accompanied her little girl for the media interaction.
But first, mum has to cajole Harshaali into finishing her lunch: Chicken pasta.
"I like chicken. I ate a lot of chicken while doing the 'Chicken' song in Bajrangi Bhaijaan. I took four takes to do that scene," Harshaali says between bites.
So has Harshaali become a star in school? "Mamma had asked me not to talk about the movie to my friends because that would give it away. Woh log picture mein kya dekhte phir? (What would they see in the movie?)" she explains.
Sharing her experience of working with superstar Salman Khan, Harshaali says, "At first, I was very shy but later I enjoyed working with Salman uncle."
Harshaali was quite playful during the shoot. "I would play games on Salman uncle's phone or sit on Kabir (Khan, director) uncle’s lap and play Barbie games. Kareena (Kapoor) aunty was busy with the shoot, so I did not get time to play games with her," she says.
Harshaali had become Salman's fan after watching Kick, and says she bonded really well with the actor. "We would play table tennis and drive an ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) while shooting in Karjat. And he made me eat a lot of biryani!"
Shooting in front of the camera was not a problem for the little girl, but the action scenes really scared her.
"I would get scared and start crying," Harshaali admits. "Later, Kabir uncle decided to shoot my scenes separately."
Scenes when Salman would cry, made her cry as well. "I would feel bad," she says.
So did she ever ask him not to cry? "He is big, how can I tell him not to cry?" she quips.
Harshaali may be just seven but she already knows which actors she would like to work with -- "I want to work with Katrina Kaif, Sonakshi Sinha, Shraddha Kapoor, Salman uncle again..." she rattles on.
Harshaali’s mother Kajal explains that Bajrangi Bhaijaan happened by chance.
"I had gone to (casting director) Mukesh Chhabra’s office, as I had read about a film. After a few months, I got a call from his office. They told me that Haarshali has been shortlisted for Bajrangi Bhaijaan. I wasn’t aware that Salman was going to be a part of the project," she says.
Harshaali was then taken to Salman's home, with three other girls, to meet the actor.
"I was nervous, as I wondered how she would talk and react when she saw Salman. When she came back, she told me that she had asked Salman to make her a superstar just like him,” she laughs.
That, incidentally, bowled over the actor.
Like Salman said in an interview to Rediff.com: "She (Harshaali) is like a diva. If she becomes a lead actress, she will give all the other actresses a run for their money.
"The first thing she told me when I met her was, 'Aap mujhe aap ki tarah ek superstar bana do na (make me a superstar like yourself).' I thought her mother had taught her to say that, but that wasn't the case.
"She has set her goals at such a young age. I hope she doesn't lose her innocence with all the attention she is getting."
Harshaali plays a mute girl in Bajrangi Bhaijaan but she's very talkative in real life. "During the workshops, Mukesh Chhabra would be worried how she would play a mute girl!" Kajal says with a laugh.
Harshaali’s tryst with showbiz started when she was just two years old.
"We chanced upon a photo contest by an apparel brand for kids when we visited a mall," Kajal explains. "We filled up the form, and after a few days, we were informed that Harshaali had won. So she did a photoshoot with them."
Since then, Harshaali has been a part of several commercials for brands like Hyundai Xcent, Pears, Fair & Lovely, Sony, Horlicks, HDFC Bank and Apollo Tyres.
She has starred in a few television shows as well, like Jodhaa Akbar, Qubool Hai and Savdhaan India.
Incidentally, she played Salman's Maine Pyar Kiya heroine Bhagyashree’s daughter in Laut Aao Trisha.
Harshaali studies in Class Two in a school located in Mira Road, a western suburb of Mumbai, and juggles her shoots easily. "The school is very cooperative and Harshaali manages to catch up on her studies quickly," Kajal says.
She wants her daughter to act for a few more years. "I manage her schedule, juggling acting and studies. After Class Five or Six, I want her to stop working. She will start again when she's 18. Studies are a must," Kajal says.
"I won't allow Harshaali to take up something that isn’t substantial," Kajal adds. "There are a lot of offers for television shows but I don't want her to do those. I don't want to drain her. I'd be happier if she did a few good films. After getting so far in her career, I don't want her to do minuscule roles."