Life after Salaam Bombay

Nine Oscar award winner film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ might be the flavor of the year, but making news after the phenomenal success of the film is Shafiq Syed who played no part in the film. His story is similar to Rubina and Azhar of ‘Slumdog’, MyBangalore spoke with the former child star.

Shafiq Syed strikes a pose. Photo: Venkatesh |

When I met Shafiq Syed I told him I had not seen ‘Salaam Bombay’ completely because of a bad DVD. He smiles his trademark heartwarming smile and says, ‘Yeh tho hamara bura kismet tha’ (probably it was my bad luck). It’s likely, Luck played an important role in Shafiq’s life when as a clueless 12 year old he landed the role of ‘Krishna’ in Mira Nair’s acclaimed national award winner ‘Salaam Bombay’.

His rags to cinematic fame and back to rags story has gathered plenty of newsprint, TV airtime and even a Wikipedia page over the years but, the former child star is not tired of repeating his story time and again.  As a wide eyed 12 year old Shafiq ran away from Bangalore, which was his home to Bombay ‘bas maza ke liye’ (just for fun). He survived off the streets making a few friends here and there. One day a lady approached him and his friends with a luring offer to be a part of a drama club where in return they would be given one meal a day and Rs 20. The drama club turned out to be an acting workshop scouting for kids to star in Salaam Bombay and Shafiq was shortlisted to play the lead part of ‘Chaipau’ or ‘Krishna’ in the film. ‘Film itna bada hoga mujhe pata nahi tha’ (I never thought the film would become this big). The film’s success earned Shafiq a national award for best child artist in 1988. But his 15 minutes of fame ended and he returned to Bangalore. After which he struggled as a camera assistant before ultimately becoming an auto driver in order to make ends meet.

He carries around with him a poster of ‘Salaam Bombay’ for memories along with a bundle of newspapers with articles about him. He also knows why there is a sudden fuss about him in the media again ‘Slumdog hit hua, aur woh bacche bhi slum ke bacche hain jaise main tha’ (Slumdog is a hit and the child stars in the film are from the slums like me), says Shafiq. He however wishes he could have walked the ramp like Rubina and Azhar, the Slumdog stars did for fashion week. But he instantly adds saying ‘Ab tho zamana alagh hai’ (times are different now). Slumdog was also the only film he saw after ten years says Shafiq. He took his family along to INOX in Garuda Mall to watch the ‘much hyped’ film.  When I ask him what he thought of the film and if it portrayed life on the streets in Bombay? He disagrees saying that the reality the film has depicted is entirely different compared to what actually happens on the streets. He goes on to say that no one removes your eyes and limbs to make you beg, and that begging is done only through pressurizing you. He also adds that no slum kid can so easily get on the top of a train as and when he whims it.

These days Shafiq is a mini celebrity of sorts he says that he has not been on his rounds in the auto for nearly 15 days as his phone has been ringing off the hook. Through this hype he also got a call from none other than Mira Nair who invited him for the re-release of Salaam Bombay’s DVD. But right now Shafiq has a different plan of action where he is fervently working on- making a film on his life story. A story that explores what happens after the fame dies down, the continuous struggle to get into an industry that applauded him as a child genius, the dejection and the pain of living on the streets again where he is mocked and ridiculed for having once starred in a film. It’s a long process but Shafiq is confident he will make that film so that his children get a better life than the one he has lived. As calls and messages continue to pour in from Kolkata, Tripura, Kerala and many other places, Shafiq believes that through these many wishes from the people he has won the Oscar for having played Krishna. One meeting with him and you know it was his cinematic presence and smile that won him that role which brought him fame which he subsequently lost.
Tags: Shafiq Syed, Salaam Bombay, Mira Nair, Rubina Ali, Azhar Mohammed Ismail, National Award


pankaj chavan Apr 28th, 2013 12:49 AM

no words...hatss off !!

Mayur Mar 28th, 2013 12:14 PM

Can I have his phone no. pls. 
He needs recognition, money and fame.
I wanna give him a role in my short film.

Mohammed Hashim Jan 08th, 2012 12:09 AM

Hello All,
My heart's desire was to see that child actor in present time and before see this story, i set my mind that may he became a very famous or big actor in Bollywood as he acted real in a awarded movie,
But I am very sad to see this....
I don't  have words to praise about your acting.
Jazak Allah Khairan. 

Piers Helsen Jan 02nd, 2012 07:47 AM

Shafiq acted brilliantly in Salaam Bombay....and so much more believably and unpretentiously that just about any of the Bollywood Big Shots.  However it doesn't surprise me that he was cast-off like a rag by the film industry.  He is just too Indian.  Bollywood wants 'handsome' medallion men and white-skinned, leggy, over made-up females to fit into the normal tedious films.  Real Indians or real India are simply not what Bollywood is about :-(

AJ Dec 27th, 2011 09:00 PM

C'mon guys in bollywood give this guy a hand, good guys never end up driving auto ricksho's the industry looks for peple who come genuine families is it ? This guys acting as that child is damn gr8 n a big success give this guy a chance learn from him . . . 

asad ali Oct 31st, 2011 04:41 AM

This is one of the great Indian movie..but after watching it i feel sorry for the moern indian cenima,what they are presenting today

Shekar Jun 18th, 2011 12:04 PM

i watched this movie from my heart.. i liked mostt.. but that guy Shafiq Syed.... who played best child artist role.." wo to bechara abhi tak wahin ka wahin hai" Nobody took him again...... "wahin chod diya usi slum main janha wo tha" 
Ye hai Bollywood Industry... 

Jayakrishnan May 27th, 2011 08:15 PM

Salaam Bombay is a brilliant film (much better than its roller-coaster-fantasy clone "Slum-dog Millionaire"). I was never moved so much by any movie before. The screenplay and the characters make the movie compellingly believable and real. I fell in love with Krishna and Chellam characters (and they the actors portrayed it) whose story could be any of the street kids life who face the wrath of the society's underbelly for no fault of their own. Brilliant team work. Salaam Bombay is a timeless classic.   

mohammed Feb 05th, 2011 11:55 AM

The act of Shafiq in Salaam Bombay was awesome, very true expression and pure act showcasing the life of street children in the city of Bombay (mumbai)
Keep it up 

Sakshi Trivedi May 22nd, 2009 09:37 PM

I think this is a nicely written article. I have read Shafiq's story in the papers, this one touches the heart.
Nirmala needs to be a copy editor for this website so she can judge if reporters write articles in their leisure or in a hurry.

Nirmala Devi Mar 26th, 2009 01:27 AM

The theme of the topic is excellent; I am sure this article will bring new light in Shafiq life.
I want to say some thing regarding the article which I felt while reading. Usage of first word in the ending sentence of the article to be concentrated, instead of using the word "One meeting with him and you know"- "a meeting with Shafiq will make you to realise" or else "single meeting with him".  Above all it seems with some urgency the article has taken its shape.

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