Bollywood's own Peter Dinklage?
Three-foot-and-11-inch Arun Kushwah has hope, as roles being offered to him move beyond his height to tap into his talent. The Gwalior boy says life could not have been better today
Apple of his mother's eye, Arun Kushwah was also the center of the rest of the family's attention while growing up in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. But that did not mean he had it easier than either of his two older siblings—one who today is a teacher and the other a homemaker. In fact, most part of Kushwah's childhood involved wading through demeaning remarks common on school and college campuses. "I don't think people understand dwarfs. People don't realise it's a genetic condition and tend to either mysticise us or make fun of us," he shares. Many a time, Kushwah would break down, unable to fight his bullies. "But my biggest worry was that Mumma and Papa find out what I was facing in class. They would be left heartbroken. They love me too much, you know," he adds.
Today, Kushwah is more confident and cares less about such packs of wolves. The 28-year-old actor, writer, comedian and YouTuber feels life couldn't have been better for him. All thanks to his short yet striking roles in Kriti Sanon and Kartik Aaryan-starrer Luka Chuppi and Netflix's Chopsticks, which saw Abhay Deol and Mithila Palkar in the lead cast—both 2019 releases. "It is a dream come true. While I always enjoyed entertaining people, I never thought I would get to work with so many new stars of the silver screen," he tells us.
But, it took Kushwah a while to realise this dream. Born in 1990, Kushwah left his Bachelor of Computer Application (BCA) studies mid-way and decided to move to Delhi. There, he pursued BA honours in Russian, and in 2014, even secured a job at Wipro in Powai. While he gave his best shot at the 9 am to 5 pm job each day for the next two years, he also utilised his free time to make funny videos. "Humour is my thing. Similar to TikTok today, Dubsmash was a rage back then. I would make videos of myself and recreate old Hindi movie scenes. Soon my YouTube channel started receiving positive feedback; people were loving my work." So finally in 2016, a 3-foot-and-11-inch Kushwah decided to pursue a career mainly dominated by 6-foot tall men—acting.
Arun Kushwah With Abhay Deol in Chopsticks
Kushwah told a friend, who worked with The Viral Fever (TVF), to keep him posted of any acting opportunities. "They saw my videos and immediately called me to their office in January 2017. They said they liked my content and then it was decided that I would write my own scripts for a show—Badey Chotey Miyan," he informs, adding that his scripts never involved abusive words as opposed to the trend in the Indian comic arena. "Most writers include abuses to improve their comedy. But my content is different. Also, I never shame anybody on the basis of their physical appearance. It is too degrading. Real comedy is when you can make someone laugh purely with the magic of words," he quips.
Most dwarf actors, during the 20th century, found employment in American film and television, but majority of the roles handed were dull, embarrassing and repugnant. While some were used to play infants or children, others played a diminutive part in fantasy movies. From Frankenstein to Poltergeist, dwarfs were introduced to suggest an eerie atmosphere. "Recently, I got an offer from a well-known Indian production company, but I declined. The role involved self-humiliation, which works with the audience. But what people don't understand is that such roles can be pretty soul destroying. Yes, you can make money from it, but what's the point?"
In Luka Chuppi, Kushwah plays Pankaj Tripathi's sidekick
Kushwah, thus, only picks roles that he thinks he truly deserves as an actor and not as a dwarf. Quite similar to the sensation that American actor Peter Dinklage is today. Dinklage, too, has done a string of well-received performances, with Game of Thrones offering him overnight stardom. "Things are slowly changing in Indian cinema as well. SRK did a decent job with Zero where he played a dwarf. After Chopsticks, I have signed a couple of nice untitled films and shows. Maybe Bollywood will get its own Peter Dinklage one day."
So then, was leaving his stable Wipro job worth the risk? Absolutely, says Kushwah. "I earn twice the salary I got at Wipro as an analyst. Producers and directors are coming up with good scripts for me. It has been a ride. But there is so much more left to do."
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