This film star prefers to stay in a shelter for the homeless

New Delhi, July 26 ( Sometimes some stories seem right out of a movie script. Salim’s is one of them. With 40 films, including an Oscar-nominated one, under his belt, it’s sheer pleasure to watch this talented 17-year-old perform. Especially among his applauding friends in a shelter for the homeless which has been his home for the last one decade.

Wearing a pair of denim shorts and a red T-shirt, Salim — the young actor who had won hearts the world over in Ashwin Kumar’s short film “Little Terrorist” — walked around the boys’ shelter home near the New Delhi railway station, chatting with his friends.

At the sharp glance of their young tutor however, he quickly took his place among the 16 on the bench and started reading his text. Unaffected by the hues of the tinsel town, Salim prefers staying with his friends at the shelter home to living outside.

While his acting skills have been much appreciated the world over, dancing also remains close to Salim’s heart.

“I enjoy acting and have acted in a number of films as well as two serials. Among the most well known is ‘Little Terrorist’ in which I play the role of a Pakistani boy who crosses over to India by mistake. The film was nominated for the Oscars in 2005 and won a lot of awards like the Montreal Short Film Festival competition, Tehran Festival, Sao Paulo Festival and others,” the teenage actor said.

One of his upcoming projects is another Ashwin Kumar film, “The Forest”, which also stars Nandana Sen. The film is slated for release in September.

“But I love dancing too and I hope to become a professional choreographer some day,” Salim told IANS.

If you put on the music and ask him to show a few dance steps, the teenager doesn’t think twice. Moving his body effortlessly, he breaks into a jig that can put a lot of well-known dancers to shame.

“I have been trained by famous choreographer Ashley Lobo for four years and now I am learning Kathak here. I also train people sometimes, but other than the commuting fee I don’t charge them anything,” he said.

Life however has not been easy for this versatile youngster, who is preparing for his Class 12 exams from the Open school.

At the age of eight, Salim was discovered by a social worker, crying inconsolably on a roadside. Coming from a family of rag pickers, he had got separated from his mother. He was brought to the shelter home of the Salaam Balak Trust, famed film director Mira Nair’s NGO which works for street children.

According to the NGO members, it was quite a task to trace Salim’s family and when they did so three years later, they realised that economic deprivation would not let his family give him the education and training that Salim needed to hone his talent.

Deciding to stay back at the trust, Salim, who said he was in touch with his family, started attending tutorials and learnt to dance.

“Salim is a naturally gifted performer. What is distinctive about his abilities is a rare sense of discipline, patience and responsibility that makes him a delight to work with,” said a crew member who worked with Salim on the sets of the film “Little Terrorist”.

Sharing a joke with the other boys at the shelter home and enjoying his care-free days acting, learning and dreaming, Salim signed off saying: “I am happy with how life has turned out for me. I have not got as much fame despite the movies I have done, but my dream is to be a good choreographer so I am okay with it.”