Little Mikail Gandhi tiptoes out of his bath when we visit him at his Andheri flat on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon. His hair is wet and rather blanket straight, hardly showing any hint of his natural curls.
He greets us with a smile so disarming and words so warm that it was hard to fight the urge to pull his cheeks. We settle for a slight pat on his back. "It feels really nice when everyone comes and congratulates me," gushes the eight-year-old, currently enjoying his summer vacation and newfound success as a school-going Sachin Tendulkar in the docu-drama, Sachin: A Billion Dreams.
The movie was not Mikail's first tryst with acting; he has faced the camera several times for desi commercials, as well as a few in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He also featured in a 2016 Telugu film titled Supreme.
Before Mikail landed the role, neither he or his parents were aware that he was auditioning to play a younger version of the cricket legend. His mother Yasmeen says, "We got a call from a casting agent who didn't inform us anything about the film he was supposed to audition for." A week after his screen test, they were informed about a workshop that Mikail had to attend. "When we reached there, I found out he'd bagged the role for this film [Sachin: A Billion Dreams]. Almost 300 kids had auditioned for the role," she beams with joy.
While his mother talks to us, Mikail quickly fetches an iPad from his parents' room. Busy playing a game on it, he chips in to say he met Sachin Tendulkar for the first time at the film's premiere last week. "I was able to click a picture with him. He is very nice."
In a second, he jumps to the topic of the film, saying, "When I saw myself on the big screen, it was the happiest day of my life so far."
Incidentally, Mikail, who idolises screen stars Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, is also a budding cricketer. "I love cricket and Sachin. I also like Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina." Describing a typical non-school day, he adds he goes for swimming, plays Lego and watches Cartoon Network.
Though young, Mikail has his priorities set. The class 4 student of Juhu's Maneckji Cooper says he wants to focus on studies while pursuing acting. "My school allows me to go for shoots, which is really nice. I love studying geography. Classes resume next week, but I am not sure if I want to go to school; my new class teacher is very strict," he says innocently.