"I want to grow up to be an actor like Hrithik Roshan," says 12-year-old Ayush Khedekar, who the world may recall as the young Jamal Malik from Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008). Now, four years later, Ayush is returning to the big screen: besides playing a student in the upcoming film, Gandhi Of The Month (that also stars Hollywood actor Harvey Keitel), he’s also the ‘hero’ in a children’s film called Ek Tha Hero.
"For the role, I’ve borrowed some of the moves from his (Hrithik’s) film, Krrish (2006),” Ayush says. He shot for the film during his summer holidays in a village in Gujarat with 12 boys. “I was never lonely on the sets. There was always someone to play with. We went exploring and spotted rabbits, peacocks, snakes and even a baby wolf,” he says.
The children’s film, written and directed by Yogesh Pagare, is about a young boy, who dreams of owning a bicycle. Ayush says he got his own after returning from the Oscars in 2009. “I’ll never forget that moment on the red carpet. I had to pinch myself to prove I wasn’t dreaming. One day, I’ll go back and pick up an Oscar of my own,” he says.
After Slumdog Millionaire, Ayush did get a few autograph requests. But he says his friends pulled his leg for the scene in which he emerges from the cesspit.
“I felt yucky shooting it, even though I was only covered in dye, which didn’t stink.” He also adds that he weaned Boyle off his smoking habit by threatening to fine him every time he saw him with a cigarette. “After going back to London, he thanked me for increasing his life span.”
The Slumdog kids, including Ayush, meet Danny every time he visits Mumbai. Ayush says, “Right now he’s busy with the Olympics’ opening ceremony. I’m going to surprise him with an ‘all the best’ text on the day.”