When Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra selected Japtej Singh to play the role of the young Milkha Singh for his biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, based on the life of the athlete, it was for the first time that the 12-year-old had heard Singh’s name.
“Only after Rakeysh uncle selected me for the role during the Chandigarh auditions, I looked up on the Internet to see who Milkha Singh was,” says a shy Japtej, who was selected from more than 6,500 candidates, who had auditioned for the demanding role.
So, what was the reaction from his friends, when he bagged the part? “I did not tell them initially. I told them only a month before the release, and they were very excited. My teachers praised me a lot when they saw me in the film... I felt very nice,” says the student of Yadavindra Public School in Chandigarh, who shot his part for the film during his 40-day summer vacation, last year.
Needless to say, this youngest member of the crew was also the most pampered on the sets. “Rakeysh uncle pampered me a lot, and Divya aunty (Divya Dutta who played Milkha Singh’s elder sister in the film) and Farhan uncle were very loving too. Farhan uncle would chat with me a lot, asking me GK questions,” said Japtej, who made his film debut with another Punjabi flick, Lucky Di Unlucky Story, earlier this year.
So how has life changed for the little star, as the movies is a big hit? “People instantly recognise me on the streets. I’ve got a few other film offers and even ad film offers, but dad says that I must finish my studies first,” says the child, who was inaugurating a salon at a month-long festival in Chandigarh recently.