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Last Updated: Monday, 3 April 2006, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
India's shortest actor makes waves
By John Mary
Trivandrum

Ajay Kumar
Ajay Kumar's debut film was a box office hit (Pics: E Padma Kumar)
He is 2ft 5in tall (76cm), weighs 28kg (61 pounds), and is already a film star.

South Indian actor Ajay Kumar has surely turned the logic of a hero on its head.

In his debut feature, Atbhutha Dweep (Wonder Island), Kumar performs stunts, rides a horse at 45 kph and cavorts with a lover.

The film, with a cast of 360 dwarfs defending their kingdom, has been a box-office hit.

"I think the image of hero has changed. I am not glamorous like other superstars but viewers like the talented, character artiste in me," says the shortest actor in Indian cinema.

Director Vinayan is full of praise for new 28-year-old Kumar, who is also an economics graduate.

"When he approached me after his degree for a role, I simply laughed and taunted him, asking him what he thought of marriage. 'Sir I want to marry a tall girl,' he said. That's what made me cast him in a lead role with the tall princess in Atbhutha Dweep," he says.

Kumar has already acted in 18 films - his latest hit is a Tamil movie, Dinshum, in which he again plays the hero.

Nets dream girl

Although Kumar lost his princess to the villain in the film, in real life he recently won the hand of a girl much taller than him.

Gayatri, 19, a government health inspector, stands more than twice as high at 5ft 2 ins.

Ajay and his wife Gayatri
Kumar always wanted to marry a girl 'of normal height'
"It's been an arranged marriage. But nobody compelled me into wedlock. I like him and feel secure in his hands," says the bride.

Ajay Kumar questioned her for nearly three-and-a-half hours before popping the question himself.

"Marrying a girl of normal height has been a dream ever since a girl spurned me at college. Jilted, of course, but sure it steeled my resolve," says Kumar.

He is currently filming on the sets of a popular television series, Five Star Thattukada (Wayside Eatery), at the lake village of Kumarakom in Kerala.

"We are looking forward to a long, prosperous life, and hope to be blessed with children with normal height," he says.

Hailing from Ayemanam, the village made famous by Booker prize-winner Arundhati Roy in her novel, The God of Small Things , Kumar comes across as every bit a fighter.

'Shock'

His mother Ambujakshy says her world "came crashing down" when they found out her son was a dwarf.

"It was a shock. My only prayer was my child should walk on his own," she says.

Her prayers were answered.

When Kumar was four, he climbed all 1,008 steps of the historic Subramanya temple at Palani in Tamil Nadu with his mother.

Dwarf association in Kerala
Members of the Kerala Small Men Association
"It was a miracle. He climbed the steps, each half his body length. That was the ultimate test and I knew I'll never come to grief," said Ambujakshy, who used to carry her son to school.

Quite early on Kumar showed his talent, playing with tins and plates at home to make music.

The break came when he won a prize in story telling in primary school.

After school he began performing on stage.

"The little wonder was an instant hit on stage. There was never a dull moment with him and he began to earn enough to keep the family hearth burning," says his father Radhakrishna Pillai, a taxi driver, who has been fighting a slew of illnesses.

"He earned enough to pay for the marriage of my two daughters and has built two houses."

But when Kumar sought admission to a private school, the headmaster rebuked his parents in public, saying their son would not be able to climb the steps to the school.

"It was the first public ridicule from a person in authority. I used to brush aside taunts and sneers from mates. But this virtually sapped me," says Kumar.

When he entered college, his mother bought a scooter and the mother and son rode to the college and back. After a while, friends took over the chore of dropping him.

Now the ambitious little actor is aiming for a break in Hollywood.

"My star value has definitely gone up. I'm improving my English too, especially after a Hollywood director evinced interest in a re-make of Dweep," said the actor, who also set up an association of dwarfs.

The Kerala Small Men Association has 300 members across the state and is demanding what it calls "special recognition" from the government.

The men want job quotas, free bus rides and other facilities.

The association's height limit is 135cm (54 inches).


SEE ALSO:
Dwarf group head supports TV show
30 Jan 04 |  Entertainment
Dwarves look to end discrimination
12 Nov 03 |  UK Politics


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