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Ishtar in my classroom (PART I)

It’s not everyday that a college student gets to share screen space with Shahrukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan or work with Ekta Kapoor. These days you need to a father, godfather, brother or (at least) a frat brother in the glamour world if you do not want to be shooed away by the watchman at the gate.

Having said all this, there are also those who take the straight and narrow path, struggle, take auditions and get chosen for small or big roles. Surya Ragunaathan speaks to campus celebs and finds out what it takes.

Name: Chitrashi Rawat
Age: 18yrs
College: St Andrew’s, Mumbai
Striking features: Agile and spirited!
Claim to fame: As Komal Chautala in Chak de India!

And then there are those who are not born stars but achieve stardom due to the sudden gushing-out of hidden talent. Such people don’t realise that they are talented in a certain field unless thrown headlong into it. And then life changes 360 degrees. Such is the story of Chitrashi Rawat, born in Dehradun. “Life”, she says, “has never surprised me so much.” As a young girl Chitrashi took a liking to hockey and started playing with full vigour. She played school level, district level, state level and then national level. Little did she know that hockey was to come a long way with her and might actually land her up in a movie.

It’s not everyday that a teenager gets to share screen time with Shahrukh Khan in a box-office scorcher and get noticed. In Chak De! India, 18-year old Chitrashi Rawat manages to do that in her Komal Chautala avatar. The reel (and real life) tomboy with attitude stumbled onto movies by a stroke of luck. So how did it all happen?

“Director Shimit (Amin) spotted me when I was playing at the National Hockey Tournament in Jabalpur. He asked me to come for the audition, which clicked,” rewinds an overjoyed Chitrashi. For this pint-sized gal who’s pursuing her BMM from St Andrew’s, Mumbai, acting happened by chance. “But it was like a dream come true. I never thought of acting in a film and that too with SRK. It feels like a miracle,” she says.

“In my auditions, Shimit asked me to abuse a girl who is not passing me the ball, on the field. I did not know I was so good at showing anger, bending eyebrows and abusing.” (Grins!) How tough was it to learn Haryanvi to play the part of Komal? “Initially it was very difficult. But many people helped me learn the language, including Shahrukh, who speaks very good Haryanvi,” she chirps. Chitrashi, who currently plays hockey for Uttranchal, says, “Being a player, I had an advantage while portraying my character.” When asked how she feels about her celebrity status, she smiles and that says it all. Lively, agile and talkative are some of the words that describe Chitrashi best.

Chitrashi manages her studies and blooming film career with ease. “At Andrews, people are chilled out. My principal doesn’t mind granting me leave if I am out for a good purpose like shooting and all.” A year ago Chitrashi chose Andrew’s out of a sea of colleges in Mumbai because they have their own hockey team, tournaments and coaches. “Andrew’s gives you good exposure to Hockey. So, I thought it’s the best place to be.” Simple, isn’t it? Hockey seems to have breathed new life into this young girl whose career in films are growing day-by-day with new offers.

Name: Athit Naik
Age: 16yrs
College: Ruia College, Mumbai
Striking feature: Sparkling brown eyes
Claim to fame: As Shiv Kapur in Kal ho na ho (2003)

His eyes shine like brown diamonds when he greets you with a smile. A smile which obviously caught the attention of many at an early age. Athit Naik was like “this tall” (indicates 3 feet) when his teacher, Miss Nirmala at St Gregorious School, Mumbai asked his parents to send his pictures to various advertising and media companies. Without thinking twice, he was chosen for a Colgate commercial at the age of 11. People were charmed by his cutie-pie face and eyes. “Everything happened by chance. I have no godfather in the industry. I went on to do over 90 ads in various languages. My most recent ad was the Harry Potter style ad for a bike brand. I feel mere talent is good enough to survive.”

When he enters into the canteen, heads turn. When he walks the corridor, more heads turn to glance at him. Celebrity status, haan? “I don’t feel anything actually. Yes, I am happy and I like it when people recognize me but that means I need to perform better in future and live upto everyone.”After his successful stint with advertisements, it was Bollywood calling! When asked if his first movie was Kal ho na ho, he says, “Not at all. Though a lot of people think that way, because my role became popular. My first movie was a children’s film called Aabra ka daabra. Not very popular but immensely so amongst children.”

Athit went on to do a host of movies with various big stars like Hrithik, Shahrukh, Fardeen and Bobby Deol delivering his best. Mujhse dosti Karogi, Janasheen, Saaya, Bhagat Singh are some of the films that make his career. Some cameos and some of them being crucial roles, Athit delivers with élan. So, did he have to undergo training? “Nope. I believe in natural acting. Not artificial and that’s what you get from acting schools.”

In 2003, Athit took an audition at Yashraj studios for the role of Shiv Kapur in Kal ho na ho. Though Athit was selected finally, since they had to shoot at New York for over 2 months, there was resistance from home. “My mom was a little here and there about it. She thought my studies would take a back seat. But I convinced her that I wouldn’t let that happen and bagged the role. It was a great experience and I am very grateful to my teachers, parents and friends who have always supported me.”

Reading is his pastime and his favourites include Satyajit Ray, Sidney Sheldon, Khushwant Singh, Agatha Christie and Dan Brown amongst a host of others. Apart from acting, a unique flair for learning and speaking in various languages is what interests this young lad. “I can speak French, Gujarati, Romanian, Marathi, Hindi, bit of Tamil and even German. I have learnt most of these while visiting various countries and shooting.”

Looking at the career he has already built up in all these years, Athit has sure got a long way to go. As he says, “I do have big dreams. But I can’t reveal them.” Now that’s what I call ‘starry eyes.’

Click here to read PART II

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