Fifteen-year-old Siddhesh Paradhi recently realized a dream he never could have imagined would come true–making it to the big screen in a hit Bollywood movie. Living in a slum in Mumbai with his mother and uncle, he attended a government-aided school nearby. His journey began when he applied to join an afterschool program–Salaam Bombay Foundation’s Theater Academy. Salaam Bombay Foundation is one of India Youth Fund’s partner programs in India. India Youth Fund supports India’s underserved youth by funding local educational and skills-based training programs across India. In addition to theatre, music, dance and creative arts, the programs also include various sports, media lab and financial literacy skills–providing basic life and job skills to students at risk of dropping out of school.
In fact, Siddhesh is one of 65 million Indians who live in the slums with their entire families, surviving on less than $200 per month. Eighty percent of youth who live in slums drop out of school by the 8th grade, as a result of trying to survive and support their families. The students who are sponsored by India Youth Fund can learn skills that allow them to earn up to $30 per month, which they can then contribute to their family income, alleviating the pressure to drop out. In short, it allows them to finish their education, pursue a career, and achieve a brighter future for themselves and their families.
After hearing the news of his acceptance into the theatre program, Siddhesh rushed home to tell the good news to his parents. Siddhesh was a part of the Theater Academy from 2013 to 2016. He’d always dreamed of being an actor in a Big Screen Bollywood movie, but he didn’t know it would happen so quickly… or that it would happen at all!
In 2017, Siddhesh was 1 out of 1,000 actors who auditioned for the movie. Twenty-five of those 1,000 who auditioned were India Youth Fund students. After weeks of anticipation, Siddhesh received a call — he had been selected to play a supporting role in the Bollywood hit movie, Hichki. Filled with excitement, Siddhesh knew what a huge breakthrough this was. He was cast to play the role of a student from the Mumbai slums who is at a crucial turning point in his life; given the opportunity to attend an elite school, the student has to make a choice to either rebel against the system or embrace the opportunity to achieve a brighter future. The role mirrored Siddhesh’s reality. When asked about his future plans, he credits this experience for allowing him to envision the possibility that anything is possible, including pursuing higher education and building a career.
“I learned a lot from my experience with Hichki… I am also now working on a course in Aviation and am rejoining the Salaam Bombay Foundation Theatre Academy. I want to be a part of the film industry, but before that I wish to complete my studies.” –Siddhesh Paradhi
Siddhesh appears alongside Bollywood star Rani Mukerji in Hichki, which was released March 23rd, 2018. His theatre instructors at Salam Bombay Theater Academy can’t wait to see what he will accomplish next!
See a short video regarding Siddhesh’s journey by clicking below:
India Youth Fund is sponsoring a private viewing of Hichki on Wednesday, June 13th in Stamford, CT, and on Thursday, June 14th in NYC. Please email email@example.com for more details and to reserve your seat.
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President Avtar Ganju (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Chairman Victor Martinez-Angles (email@example.com) began Salaam Bombay Children’s Fund in the US in 2012 to raise awareness and funds to promote education and skills for underserved youth in India. Salaam Bombay Children’s Fund was renamed to India Youth Fund in 2018. Victor is also a partner at Lumis Partners since 2009. Before Lumis, Victor led Corporate Development for Genpact and held Business Development and M&A executive positions at General Electric Company. Avtar Ganju has a PhD in Pharma and an executive management degree in marketing. He is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). India Youth Fund is run by CEO Ashley Kadakia (firstname.lastname@example.org). Eric Wexler, Communications & Marketing Manager at India Youth Fund, helped write this post.