Audiences are going gaga over her innocent and endearing performance in Bajrangi Bhaijaan and seven-year-old child-actor Harshaali Malhotra aims to be a big star like her co-actor Salman Khan.
Harshaali plays Munni, a mute girl from Pakistan, in the Kabir Khan-directed blockbuster. "I like acting and singing. I want to be a superstar like Salman uncle," she says.
Her mother Kajal had once met casting director Mukesh Chabra. One day he called her up saying the child has bagged the role in Salman Khan starrer Bajrangi Bhaijaan. "I was not aware that Salman was part of this project. We couldn't believe initially. It was tough for us to accept it," the mom says.
Harshali says Salman used to play barbie games and table tennis with her on the film's sets. "I used to play games with Salman uncle on cell phone. Salman uncle used to play table tennis with me in Karjat. I used to sit on Kabir uncle's lap and play Barbie games. Kareena aunty was busy with shoot so did not get time to play games with her," she adds.
Her mother says Harshaali is now dedicated to acting. "Right now she is dedicated to acting. I keep giving gap in between. Sometime back she was unwell, so we had stopped doing assignments... she is too small. "By the time she is in class five we will take a break of 6-7 years till she is in class XII. If she wants to pursue acting then we will let her do it." Harshaali said used to cry seeing Salman fighting or getting emotional in the film. "I used to cry when he (Salman) did action scenes. Even when Salman uncle shot emotional scenes, I used to feel bad. Even I cried when Salman uncle cried."
Harshaali Malhotra is extremely talkative in real life, says her mother. "Harshaali never keeps quiet. During workshops, Mukesh (Chhabra, the casting director) used to tell me that he was worried how she could keep quiet," Harshaali's mother says. "There is no difference in her as a person. The way she was earlier is exactly how she is now," she adds, emphasizing how shooting schedules haven't affected Harshaali.
Shooting with a child is not only difficult for the filmmakers but also for the child. "Whenever there was action or any high-pitched sound, she would get scared. But Salman (Khan) and Kabir (Khan) would take special efforts to ensure that she interacts with other co-stars by playing, after which she became comfortable during the shoot," Malhotra says.
Among the flood of compliments Harshaali's has received, one which deserves mention was when Farah Khan termed her "the find of the century".
The popularity Harshaali has received is there for everyone to see, but her mother says they will try to ensure that she balances studies and acting seamlessly. "Whatever we'll decide for her career would obviously depend on the offers we receive, but we wouldn't prefer television very much," she said.
Harshaali has also acted in TV serials like Qubool Hai and Laut Aao Trisha and advertisements.