Ali Haji started acting at the age of 6 months when he got his first commercial for Johnson’s Baby soap. Ever since then he has done over a hundred ads until I got my big break in Fanaa with Aamir Khan and Kajol. He then went onto do Tara Rum Pum with Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee and Partner with Salman Khan, Lara Dutta and Govinda. Both these films were supremely fulfilling experiences.
Then he did Paathshaala with Shahid Kapoor and a bunch of other films until years later when he came back into the movies with Noblemen that recently released. He then got Super 30 with Hrithik which pushed him into unfamiliar territories with him having to play a more rustic character than those he had played previously, besides working with Hrithik was amazing.
He has pretty much acted his whole life and he has also done his bit as an AD on Gold with Reema Kagti and he has directed quite a few short films as he is also pursuing filmmaking. Here, Ali opens up on his journey this far:
How did you break into the industry as a child actor?
I started with a role for a Johnson’s baby commercial at the age of 6 months, one thing led to another and after about a hundred ads I got my first film. You can say I’ve been doing this all my life.
What are the pressures of being a child actor and is it true what they say about your childhood being lost?
There are not too many pressures other than academic. Since you miss a lot of school it becomes somewhat imperative to study during work and balance your studies with your shoots. Yes, to an extent your childhood is lost, but again, you get to live a life at an early age that not too many people experience so it has its perks.
In a short career you’ve worked with big names from Aamir and Salman Khan to Shahid Kapoor, Govinda, and recently Hrithik Roshan. Does the experience ever make you euphoric or do you treat it as another day in the office?
Of course it makes me euphoric. It’s sometimes surreal. These people are my heroes. Even years later I think the feeling of working with them will be absolutely fantastic. They’re the reason I went to the movies and wanted to be in the movies. To act along with them is always going to be exciting.
After entering the industry as a child actor, was it inevitable that you’d pursue acting as a career after growing up or did you ever have other plans
Well I had my phases of wanting to be a pilot and even a merchant banker at some point. Eventually however I came to recognize that my calling is at the movies and I realized that whether it’s in front of the camera or behind, I would want to spend my whole life on a movie set.
How nervous does it make you when you think a out your career as an actor from now on because history hasn’t been kind to most child actors in Bollywood?
I think it’s silly to generalize. It doesn’t make me nervous because I’m simply here to do good work and I don’t have ridiculous expectations. I think to ride on my previous work would be entitled of me. I am in this line because I love it and I’m passionate about it, so no existing patterns really intimidate me.
Will you be content playing meaty supporting roles where you get to leave an impression or is the ultimate goal to make it as a lead actor
Some of my favorite performances in recent times have been by actors in supporting roles. Vijay Varma in Gully Boy, Vicky Kaushal in Sanju and Rajkumar Rao in Bareilly Ki Barfi. They were all absolutely scene stealers in my opinion. So I have no problem playing supporting roles whatsoever, I just want to be good and make it memorable.