Shafiq Syed was born on 1 January, 1976, and grew up in Mumbai, India. He is an Indian child actor who starred in the Oscar-nominated movie, Salaam Bombay. He has now become an auto rickshaw driver.
Shafiq Syed was a kid of the slums. He ran away to Mumbai with a few friends when he was a child. Fascinated by Hindi movies, he wanted to see for himself how much of what we see on the screen is true. Syed was a wide-eyed kid. He lived on the pavements in Mumbai, near Churchgate railway station. He spent days looking and absorbing the crowd of the city that never sleeps. Luckily, one day, a lady invited him to join an acting workshop. She promised him Rs 20 a day, as well as lunch. The only condition was he would have to attend the classes daily. His other friend ran away, afraid it might be some sort of a racket. But Syed took a chance for he knew he had nothing to lose.
He was only a month old to the classes when he got selected to play the lead role in Salaam Bombay. Back then, he was only twelve years old. He played the street urchin named Chiprau/Krishna, who sold paav and tea. Krishna was a bubbly lad, who develops a crush on a sex worker, quite young. Krishna lived in Mumbai's red light area and served tea at the Grant Road Tea Stall for a living. Like Syed, Krishna too runs away to Mumbai in the movie. Salaam Bombay, directed by Meera Nair, was perhaps the first movie based on India's street children. It became the second Indian film to get nominated for the Best Foreign Film at the Oscar. This quick turn of fate landed him with the President's Medal for the Best Child Actor. In 1989, at the 36th National Film Awards, he received the National Film Award for the Best Child Artist.
Syed had no idea the film would do this well. The end of the film shows a failed Chaipau, returning to the dirty underbelly of Bombay. Ironically, in his real life too, something similar happens. He did just one more film called ‘Patang’, in 1993. Patang is a Hindi drama movie, directed by Gautam Ghose, starring Shabana Azmi, Om Puri, and Syed.
After doing his second movie, Patang, by Goutam Ghose, in 1993, he shifted to Bangalore. Patang won an award for Best Hindi Feature Film. That was the end for Syed. His life returned to where he had started from that train to Bombay. His story mirrors the street child movie, Slumdog Millionaire. His fame faded into poverty and obscurity.
Syed lived in Bangalore and started looking for work. He tried everything, from earning Rs 150 a day by driving an auto-rickshaw, to becoming a light boy in many movie units, earning hardly 200-300. He didn't want to give up. In 1999, his name came up in newspapers for hitting a middle-aged woman. He was driving his auto-rickshaw when he accidentally hit the lady in Bangalore. He spent three days in jail. He got married and had three sons and a daughter.
In May 2012, he started working with a production company and became an assistant there. The company made Kannada television soaps. He went on to write his story in a 180 pages book titled, After Salaam Bombay. He is looking for someone to publish it. He won't give up, he says.