Director Leena Yadav’s film Parched, started with a sequence of the reel life of Janaki, a fifteen-year-old girl being prepared to meet her prospective in-laws.
Janaki is the real life Lehar Khan; who was fourteen when she was entrusted with the role of one of the lead characters in the powerful women-centric feature film.
The role given to her was tough. Being born and bred in a hustling city of India would not have made it any easier for her to enact the role of a docile yet resolute village teenage bride.
But Lehar Khan’s performance stood out, despite being the youngest and most inexperienced of the four lead actors (Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte and Surveen Chawla).
Her screen presence, innocent expressions yet strikingly mature, balanced performances made her act world-class.
She walked in the center stage after the screening and took the Q&A session with calm, composed, mature answers of a veteran actor – in a studio packed with journalists, film personalities and critics.
If she was nervous, that did not show and that stands as a sign of a natural performer.
“One of the reasons why I got selected for this role was because I was prepared to cut my hair. I had to cut my hair for my first film also,” she said matter-of-factly.
Giving the credit of her performance to Leena Yadav, she chatted confidently with invitees and audiences after the screenings.
Accompanied by her mother, she chirpily spoke to BollywoodJournalist outside the screenings. “It took me nearly two years to grow back my hair,” she laughed when I asked her what happened after the hair was gone.
“I had to cut my hair for Jalpari: The Desert Mermaid. Directed by Nila Madhab Panda of the I Am Kalam fame, the story is about female feticide. It’s an adventure film and I learnt a lot while doing it, ” she gushed.
The film made it to the Marche du Cannes festival and Lehar won the National Film Award for Best Child Artist and the Best Child Actress Award at the Dadasaheb Phalke film festival in 2013.
“I am lucky to have had such talented directors to work with, but I will be concentrating on my studies for the time being; so not taking on new projects for now,” she confirmed.
Her casual, down to earth demeanour impressed me. Her shinning eyes were dancing with teenage spirit and confidence.
She is a talent to reckon with in Indian cinema and we can expect power-packed projects that will make India proud in national and international platforms.
Will watch out for your next release, Lehar!! I am already a fan.
The London Indian Film Festival, described as Europe’s largest Asian film event, is branching out to Birmingham this year. Cinemas and venues across the city will be hosting film premieres alongside screenings of specially-selected work from a number of acclaimed directors and producers from South Asia.
The Midlands Arts Centre and Cineworld Broad Street will host screenings as part of the growing film festival. Organisers say they included Birmingham in their line-up because of the city’s cultural vibrance. The festival will run here from the 20th to the 26th July, 2016.