At 10, Tejashree Walawalkar is already the blue-eyed girl of Marathi television. Her impeccable, strikingly natural portrayal of the young Ramabai Ranade, frolicking around comfortably in a nine-yard saree, has won the hearts of all.
So much so, that every evening, for the half hour that the serial Unch Maaza Zoka is telecast, thousands of viewers feel happy when a sunny smile lights up her face, and everyone’s heart goes out to her when her eyes are welled up with tears.
Despite being thronged by excited fans wherever she goes, Tejashree hasn’t let her newly-found fame go to her head. Uninhibited and devoid of any airs, she befriends you in a minute.
“The love and adulation that the audience bestows on me is very overwhelming, I look upon them as my parents,” Tejashree says seriously. Her words ring of a premature wisdom. “Yes, I do feel a little older now!” she giggles, “I think it’s because I’m getting to essay the character of such a great woman at this age.”
Tejashree’s journey began at a tender age of three. “She was a very expressive child so we decided to shoot her portfolio, just for fun. Little did we know that her bubbly chatter and cute smile had caught the eye of one of the photographers, who sent her pictures to FTII.
Soon enough, we received a call asking for little Tejashree’s audition for a short film,” her mother beams proudly. Amusingly, Tejashree was so young then that she doesn’t even remember what role she played!
Later, she worked in many plays, serials and ads and even wrote and directed her own play Dahi Handi for which she won the best actor, best writer and best director prizes at the B B Kelkar Drama Competition. “I want to be a director when I grow up because I love handling a team,” she reveals.
But the heartening part — this young star has managed to retain her childlike innocence. Even on the sets of her latest serial, she’s the little darling of the team, as everyone, right from the director to her ‘Spot dada’, pampers her.
A Huzurpaga student, Tejashree adds that working in a serial hasn’t disrupted her studies. “I shoot for four days of the week and make up for my missed lessons at home. Even on the sets, I try to read whenever I am free,” she quips.
Like most kids, Tejashree used to find studies a big bore, but playing the country’s first female educationist was an eye-opener for the sprightly girl. “Playing Ramabai made me realise how privileged I am to be receiving education. Yes, studies can get dull at times, but now I’ve understood their true importance,” she says sensibly and runs off for the next scene.