‘Super’ Sense


Stories of people hailing from humble backgrounds and making it big aren’t unheard of. At the same time, these tales hint at a huge talent pool toiling amid poverty, illiteracy ignorance and indeed, waywardness. One such story touched my heart. It’s a real life story of the hero in a small budget film ‘Malegaon Ka Superman’. The movie, depicting the Superman combating tobacco menace, has won critical acclaims and awards in international festivals like Los Angeles, Prague, Italy and Pakistan.
Shafique Shaikh, 23, who played the Superman, wanted to fulfill his last wish to watch the movie’s release before breathing his last. At 23, age where life doesn’t really begin for many, his days were numbered as he was diagnosed with cancer. Ironically, he had fallen for the addiction he was fighting against in this movie. He tasted tobacco first when he was just 13 and came to a stage where he chewed 40 sachets of gutkha everyday.
To make his wish come true, a special screening of the movie was organised. It was attended by eminent Bollywood personalities like filmmakers Sunil Bohra and Anurag Kashyap. Shaikh was brought in a news channel van and taken into the hall on a stretcher. Unable to speak, the Superman smiled every time the audience applauded. Those present made a beeline to meet the hero after the screening. Barely 24 hours later, he became breathless and died leaving behind wife and two kids.
The speed with which he lived his life shocked me. Gutkha victim at 13, married at 19, father at 21, diagnosed with cancer at 22, laurels at the international-level at 23 and it was all over. He had potential, which went wayward. 
The country has so many Shaikhs in terms of talent. They may not always be fortunate to live in urban areas, have stable financial backgrounds and study in good schools under the watchful eyes of caring parents. They could be in slums and on footpaths taking lessons in municipal schools and living in dingy places deprived of electricity and without water flowing from taps. Poverty, illiteracy and addictions could be sapping their potentials.
On a positive note, the country has people willing to help such unlucky talent in all possible ways. Every genuine talent finds its opportunity. It happened with Shaikh too. Deepti Bhatnagar actor and producer of the television programme Malegaon Ka Chintu, paid his entire bill at the Tata Memorial Hospital. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap also wanted to help the family and went to Shaikh’s place with a chequebook. Unfortunately, the family didn’t even have a bank account. Kashyap assured them that once they opened one, he would extend assistance to them regularly. This is the silver lining to Shaikh’s sad story.
This Shaikh got a helping hand but woes may continue for others where the spark within goes unnoticed. We cannot afford to waste such huge talent. But possessing potential is not all but we need to build a strong support structure where talent is guided, nurtured and honed.
The likes of Bhatnagar and Kashyap will always put their best foot forward. Yet as of now, they are all working individually. Along with a talent pool, let’s also make concerted efforts to establish a pool of good Samaritans.
-KanChan

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