The best child actor award goes to … Sharad Goyekar… for the children’s film… Tingya,” yelled the announcer at the National Film Award ceremony in Pune. The elite audience, who were anxiously awaiting the result, clapped thunderously. All heads turned to get a glimpse of the 10-year-old actor.
When 29-year-old Mangesh Hadawale penned the script for Tingya, he was looking for a boy to act in the leading role. He found his character in Sharad in Rajuri village, 100 km away from Pune. The rustic kid was grazing his goats and sheep in the hilly forest village.
When Hadawale brought the boy to the stage to receive his prize, all eyes were trained on the simple village lad in a country shirt.
As Sharad received the covetous cup and big cheque, he couldn’t grasp the meaning of all those praises lavished upon him. Sharad went on to receive four dozen national and international awards for that film.
“The real stars are not in the sky, but in the villages, hills and forests, and not just in towns and cities,” whispered Prakash Patil to his wife, seated in the audience. Patil runs the prestigious Sinhagad Springdale Residential Public School in Pune, one of the best educational institutes in Maharashtra.
“Priya, why don’t we adopt this kid, give him the best education and make a real hero of him?” continued Patil.
But Sharad was unwilling to stay in a sophisticated residential school, away from his parents, his beloved goats and the natural freedom he enjoyed in his hut with his comrades. His nomadic gypsy tribal parents, Yeshwant and Yamuna, were also suspicious about what the wealthy Patils would do to their younger son. Finally, though, they consented to the plans of the leading academic family.
Sharad initially tried to run away from the sophisticated institute. It was not easy for the Marathi medium boy to keep up with the students from elite families in the CBSE English medium school.
But over the years Sharad began picking up in his studies. His principal, Sunny Mathew, remarked, “When I met the child, I felt he had a great potential. So for the first time we admitted a government school Marathi medium fifth grade boy in our CBSE English medium school. The child, who did not even know the English alphabet, ended up scoring 70 per cent in class 5. In class 6 he topped the school in Sanskrit, his optional subject. I am truly proud of the boy. He is considered an idol among the students.”