Call it blind luck.
Feigning blindness ensured Manoj Roy a few extra coins in his begging bowl. The act was good enough for a life-changing role in Rajkumar Hirani’s film PK that releases Friday.
Manoj, 39, is from Bedeti in north-central Assam’s Sonitpur district. Son of a daily wager who lost his mother soon after birth, he dropped out of school to beg after his daily-wager father fell too sick to work.
Twenty years ago, he boarded a train to Delhi seeking a job. But he fell back on what he was good at – acting blind, begging bowl in hand. “I was a regular at Jantar Mantar. A few months ago, two gentlemen approached me and asked if I could act. I told them acting is what I do to ensure two square meals. They gave me a phone number and a Rs 20 note before leaving,” Manoj said from his village.
Something told him not to ignore the number. The person who picked up the phone asked him to go to Nehru stadium. “I went the very next day and found myself among members of a film unit. I was taken aside for an audition with seven other beggars, all visually impaired. I cared little about the film or the actors; it was the free food that mattered, for a week till my selection,” he said.
The seriousness of the whole thing dawned on Manoj when he was put up in a five-star hotel in Delhi. “I used to often go without bath in the slums because of scarcity of water. There I was, cooling off in the hotel’s swimming pool, and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma,” he said.
Manoj’s brief for the film was to beg by the roadside leaning on a stick, waiting for Aamir to come along dancing and stealing some coins from his bowl.
The promo scene lasts five seconds. But it is long enough for Manoj to come home to a hero’s welcome. “I returned to my village with the money earned from the film. I have a job in a village shop, a Facebook account and a girlfriend too. People now call me PK Honey Singh. This is all because of the film,” he said.
What next? Maybe acting in Assamese and Bengali movies, he said.
For the time being, he has set his sights on meeting his girlfriend for the first time on Christmas.