NOT many actors can make the claim that they found on-screen stardom while at nursery, however the youngest member of a Scottish family who embarked on a trip of a lifetime around the world has become a Bollywood star after being scouted in India.
Jacob Smith was just three-years-old and travelling the world with parents Julie and Kris Smith and big sister Erihn when a casting director visited his nursery in India and chose him for a role in Mimi, a comedy-drama which was released on Netflix on July 26.
It is a secret that the family have kept for ‘a long 19 months’ which they could finally share once the film was released.
The movie is about a woman who agrees to become a paid surrogate for an American couple to help fund her dreams of becoming a Bollywood star.
Jacob, who is now aged five, plays the character of Raj, the son of Mimi while he is growing up. As part of the role, Jacob had to learn his lines in Hindi.
His parents described themselves as “so proud” of his role in the “touching” film.
The family left their home in June 2019 to escape the rat race and embark on a once in a lifetime trip around the globe, documenting their travels under the name of Clan Wander on their social media.
So far, they have travelled to 20 different countries including Albania, Jordan, Serbia and Montenegro.
While they were in Nepal on their way to trek to Mount Everest base camp on foot, coronavirus lockdown measures came into place meaning they spent several months living in the Nepalese mountains in a local sherpa’s teahouse.
However, despite the setback the family made it to Everest base camp while there were no other foreign travellers in the country, with Jacob as the youngest person to make it to the spot on foot.
It was before they had made it to Nepal that Jacob landed the role while the family were in India.
Jacob’s mum, Julie Smith said: “India was country number 19, we arrived in late October 2019 and put the kids to school in Goa, Jacob was in kindergarten and Erihn went to school to get a bit of normality and let the children make friends and get our own little community.
“One day in December we went to pick Jacob up and a casting director from Bollywood had been there that day and said they really liked Jacob for the role.
“He explained that he had been looking for a child for the movie for six months and wanted a five-year-old, Jacob was only three and they asked us to record him saying a few lines in English to a camera.”
Initially, they never thought the meeting would have come to anything, however they received a call later that month to say that the director, Laxman Utekar, loved Jacob and wanted to cast him – however, he would need to learn 20 pages of dialogue for the film in Hindi.
After much discussion and contemplation, the family agreed that Jacob could take on the role.
Dad, Kris Smith said: “We always said from the start that this wasn’t about fame and fortune for us, we left Scotland for an experience, and we wanted this to be a good experience for Jacob as well.
“We sat down with the cast and crew for discussions and worked together when we spoke up about things that we weren’t quite happy with. Everyone was great, everyone was happy and it worked really well.”
The family were then relocated to Mumbai where Jacob got acting lessons and learned Hindi.
He first learned the alphabet, and worked through his lines in between playing Lego.
Mrs Smith said that the bond between Jacob and actress Kriti Sanon on screen was something genuine, as they spent a lot of time getting to know the cast and crew in Mumbai in January 2020 ahead of the filming which took place in Rajasthan the following month for four weeks.
Mr Smith added: “I spent a lot of time on set with Jacob and it was just phenomenal, the director would ask him to do so many things – go here, look at this person, say that line in Indian – and he did it. I was amazed, and he was totally spoiled rotten by everyone on set, he loved it.
“Jacob is in the spotlight but having his big sister Erihn to look up to, that’s why he’s so good. We’re so proud of him and Erihn has this confidence and ability and he sees that and he follows that. I have no doubts that without her he wouldn’t have done what he did in Bollywood.”
Mimi was released on Netflix on July 26, four days earlier than originally planned and the Smiths had just 10 minutes notice ahead of it going live.
They said that they ‘dropped everything’ to sit down together and watch it.
“They have done a brilliant job,” Mrs Smith said, “I think Erihn and I cried as soon as Jacob came on the screen, he looked so beautiful in it and he did remarkably well.”
Unfortunately due to the pandemic, there has not been a formal premiere of the film, however the Smiths are getting together with family and friends in the coming days to have some ‘informal premieres’ where Jacob will proudly don his kilt and they can share the magic with their loved ones.
You can follow ClanWander’s adventures on their Instagram.