Sunny Pawar, the young actor from Lion (2016), is back on the streets in Safdar Rahman’s Chippa. Pawar plays a 10-year-old boy who lives on a pavement in Kolkata and sets out in search of his estranged father.

At the recent world premiere of Chippa at the Mumbai Film Festival, all eyes were on the young actor, who was cheered on by the audience for his performance. “I used to be scared to act in front of the public in the beginning, but now I have done four projects, so I don’t find it so difficult,” Pawar said after the screening.

Produced by Travelling Lights, Victory Media and Ultra Media & Entertainment, the film’s cast includes Chandan Roy Sanyal, Joyraj Bhattacharya and Masood Akhtar.

The movie is set over a single night, and traces the relationships forged between Chippa and the strangers he meets in Kolkata during his journey. Pawar has an exceptional ability to emote, Rahman said. “One of the things I was worried about was the amount of responsibility put on this young little kid,” the first-time filmmaker said. “He is pretty much there in every frame in the film, and has tonnes of dialogue. For somebody to be on the button all the time and shoot for a few days was surprising. Of all the things I was startled by, one of the things was Sunny’s ability to emote. Kids do not understand why we want to go for another take. But the moment the camera rolled, he kept at it.”

Pawar rose to fame by playing young Saroo in Garth Davis’s Lion. Saroo is separated in his childhood from his family and adopted by an Australian family. Years later, Saroo returns to India to track down his mother. The film was based on Saroo Brierley’s 2014 autobiography A Long Way Home. Pawar has since starred in the Netflix series Sacred Games (2018) and Love Sonia (2018).

Lion (2016).

The idea of a young boy running away from home was a captivating story, Rahman said. “I think everybody we know at some point in their lives has thought about running away from home,” he said. “So when I wanted to make a feature film, it was very natural for me to write about this character. The rest of the night followed.”

Rahman, who has worked with young children in slums and taught in schools, added that it was natural for him to focus on a child’s story for his first movie.

“I have taught in schools for two years, where a lot of the children were from similar economic backgrounds,” the director said. “One can always run the risk of generalising a character like this. But to me it was very natural to base my script on this because I was sure of this subject.”

Chandan Roy Sanyal (Prague, Kaminey), who plays a pivotal role in Chippa, added that he welcomed the opportunity to work with Pawar. “I think Sunny is one of the most brilliant actors in the country of his age,” Sanyal said. “When Safdar said that he was Chippa, I did not ask any questions and went in for it. Safdar narrated a little bit about the film, following which I did a few days workshop with Sunny.”

The film is expected to be released in early 2019, the makers said. “For now we are expecting the film to go to more festivals,” Rahman said.