Bajrangi Bhaijaan has a superstar in Salman Khan. It also has a star in the making in Harshaali Malhotra. Don’t be surprised to see her dominating the big screen 15 years later too.
1) She can hold her own in front of Salman Khan: Because she was just a six-year-old kid when she shot the film, Harshaali is unfazed by the presence of the superstar that is Salman Khan. There is no pressure or attempt to make herself stand out or steal his thunder. It’s accomplished effortlessly with her charm. The scenes between the two are totally tailored to draw either profuse tears or plenty of awws. The film succeeds in achieving both.
2) She has a cracking smile: Now seven, Harshaali wins you over with her toothy, slightly gummy smile. That director Kabir Khan knows that she looks beautiful, adorable and innocent while flashing it means it is used repeatedly during the course of two hours and fifty minutes. She clicks even when she isn’t beaming. Your heart will melt when you see her nose turn red when she is crying. Make no mistake she is the leading lady of the film.
3) She wins you over without uttering a word: For the most part that is. In the film, Harshaali plays the part of Shahida aka Munni, a six-year-old speech-impaired Pakistani girl, who in an act of charity, which looks like stupidity, ends up in India unable to communicate where home is. With no words at her disposal, Harshaali uses her eyes to convey the pathos of a kid away from home and more so missing her mommy. That’s challenging for a child making her big screen debut and Harshaali pulls it off as if she is a professional doing it for years.
4) The camera loves her and she knows it: Cinematographer Aseem Mishra and director-writer Kabir Khan cram in as many shots of the gorgeous landscape of Kashmir as they do of Harshaali’s lovely face. Also note that most of the slow-motion shots in the film belong to Harshaali running towards Salman. That Harshaali is more than comfortable in front of the camera – she has done commercials and TV serials – means that they don’t have to worry about her being conscious of it and trying to overact. Quiet and effective is the best way to sum up her performance.
5) She has “I’m-cute-and-I-know-it” attitude: But it never borders on arrogance. Whether she is eating chicken, celebrating Shahid Afridi’s sixers by clapping and dancing or shaking her head at Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi’s (Salman Khan) honesty policy which lands them in innumerable trouble, she is winning audiences over with her cuteness.