Last month when I was collecting songs for the train song-list and was busy sorting them, the sad news of the demise of the actor of yesteryears, Chandrashekhar, struck me. It was 16th June 2021. He was 98.
Though he wasn’t a very popular actor, he certainly wasn’t forgettable. Busy with the theme of the last month, I couldn’t pay a tribute to him.
He had a long career spanning over five decades. He started as a junior artist in 1944, then he was a hero, then as a character artist and finally he graced presidential posts of various associations related to film producers, directors and cine artist’s welfare association.
While I won’t call him one of my favourite heroes, when I read about his journey, I was impressed with it. Starting as a mere junior artist, he slowly not only became a main lead, but also learnt about film making, editing etc. Right from the beginning of his career, he worked as an assistant director. He must have been well acquainted with the film making overall. Later he not only produced a couple of films, but also directed the films. He was instrumental in establishing the cine artist’s association. Later, while he started accepting character roles, he engaged himself as an assistant director too. He was a respectable man of the film industry. He was active till 2000, when he retired at the age of 77. And in the industry where a once at the top artist dies penniless, he established his own identity by himself and maintained his prestige and honour.
During the last lockdown, when Ramayan was re-telecast on Doordarshan, I was surprised to find him playing Sumantra. During the original telecast I was a school boy and had no knowledge of Hindi film personalities, so to identify him as actor Chandrashekhar was impossible.
After I finished my train song series, I got time to research for this post. He has many good and popular Hindi film songs picturised on him. So I thought of paying a tribute to him by memorizing a few of his songs. But I knew nothing about his personal life. When I searched for him on the internet, I found some of his old interviews and was able to learn about him.
Today, on his 98th birthday, let’s remember his songs and pay a tribute to him. He was born on 7th July 1923, as Chandrashekhar Vaidya, in Hyderabad. His father was a doctor in a government hospital. Though his mother tongue was Telugu, he was very fluent in Hindi, Urdu and English. He couldn’t get much education. His father got him married when he was 13. And the couple completed 73 years of happy married life. His wife expired a few years back.
Before joining films, he worked as a watchman. He also worked in a mill as a trolley boy, carrying trolleys.
He came to Bombay (now Mumbai) in the early 40s, encouraged by friends and of course his own wish. He tried searching for opportunities, but wasn’t even allowed to enter a studio. One day while he was waiting near Ranjit studios, a man approached him and inquired if he wanted to be a hero. Excited, Chandrashekhar said yes. He thus became a junior artist, where he used to get paid 1.50 rupees a day. It was around 1944. Soon he was upgraded to rupees 8 a day. He mentioned in his interview that the former category was called an ordinary extra, while the latter, a decent extra. Doesn’t that sound funny and ruthless at the same time? Anyways…..
He also sang in the chorus for a song when Shamshad Begum heard him singing and recommended his name. He thus entered Shalimar Studios in Pune, in 1945. He got acquainted with Bharat Bhushan during the making of the film, Rangila Rajasthan. The friendship later continued for years. Destiny ultimately brought him back to Mumbai, where he first joined Rajkamal studios, and worked there for a couple of years.
Bharat Bhushan insisted him to come to Lucknow to join in for the film, Bebus. The film was directed by R Chandra. He not only acted a small part, but also worked as an assistant director.
He later worked as a junior artist in films like, Nirdoshi, Daag, Farmaaish etc. It was in the early 50s.
But it was his small role in Bebus that ultimately proved to be a game changer. Impressed with his role, he was offered a second lead role by V Shantaram for the film, Surang. The film opened the doors of success for him. His role as a labour union leader was much appreciated.
In 1954, his films, Kavi Mastana, and Meenaar were released. In Mastana, he had the opportunity to work with Motilal, whom he always praised for his natural acting. He was opposite Nigar Sultana as a second lead. His portrayal of a betraying husband was well appreciated.
He was again with his friend, Bharat Bhushan for the film, Meenaar. Made under the banner of Vishwa Bharati films, owned by R Chandra, the elder brother of Bharat Bhushan.
In 1955, his film, Baradari with Kardar productions was released. Though he was overshadowed by handsome and charming Ajit, the most popular song of the movie was lip synched by Chandrashekhar. Let’s start the list with it.
Tasveer Banata Hoon – Baradari (1955) Talat Mahmood / Nashad – Khumar Barabankawi
A very popular song by Talat Mahmood. Nothing special in the picturisation. The make-up artist should have thought twice before gluing the funny moustache on Chandrashekhar’s face. He is quite good looking otherwise.
His association with Bharat Bhushan led him to play a negative character once again, in Vishwa Bharati production’s Basant Bahar. The film was released in 1956. The film’s success was rightly claimed by the songs composed by Shankar Jaikishan. It’s definitely one of their bests. Chandrashekhar had no song to lip sync with, as he played the Emperor. But here’s the one picturised on him. A fabulous dance performance by Kumkum.
Ja Ja Re Ja Balamwa – Basant Bahar (1956) Lata Mangeshkar / Shankar Jaikishan – Shailendra
I must confess, when I had this song on my list of Kumkum songs, I hadn’t even noticed Chandrashekhar’s presence. But now when I watched it attentively, Chandrashekhar was apparent. He plays the emperor, who just has to look lustfully at Kumkum, as far as this song is concerned. No words for Kumkum’s excellent expressions and dance. It’s just fabulous.
He was later seen in Laxmi, Gateway of India, Baghi Sipahi, Taxi Stand in 1957 – 58. He was opposite Nanda in Laxmi, which had good songs, but none is picturised on Chandrashekhar.
Though I couldn’t be sure, I’m adding a song from Taxi Stand. As Chandrashekhar and Anita Guha were the main leads, the romantic song must have been picturised on them.
Aana Hai To Chale Aao – Taxi Stand (1958) Asha Bhosle & Rafi / Chitragupt – Majrooh
What a delightful song! It always cheers me up. I just hope we will watch its video someday. And I must look for Anita Guha’s black and white films. Doesn’t she look beautiful? And I guess she was a good actress as well.
Then, Bhagwan Dada’s Bhala Aadmi, was also released in 1958. It is said that the film was on sets for a couple of years, and the songs were recorded in 1956 itself. The film is said to be Anand Bakshi’s first film as a lyricist. But the failure of the film left Bakshi unnoticed. The film featured Chandrashekhar, Anita Guha, Kumkum and Bhagwan Dada himself. Chandrashekhar used to tell a tale about the film and it’s connection to his learning dance. The film had a dance sequence, where he was supposed to dance. But as he didn’t know how to, the scene was managed by letting him sit on the shoulders of a wrestler. Chandrashekhar was embarrassed with his inability and he decided to take formal dance training. He eventually learned western dance and showcased it in the 60s. More about it later.
1959 was a hit year for him as the film Kali Topi Lal Rumal did well. The songs are still remembered. Perhaps one of the most popular songs of Chandrashekhar. Let’s listen to a couple of my favourites.
Laagi Chhute Na Ab To Sanam – Kali Topi Lal Rumal (1959) Lata Mangeshkar & Rafi / Chitragupt – Majrooh
A song that stood the test of time. It’s still very popular, even after 62 years of release. I’ve watched and reviewed this film, Chandrashekhar is quite good in it, so is Agha. Chandrashekhar plays a double role in the movie, and one of the characters, Shankar plays harmonica in the movie. The song has beautiful harmonica pieces throughout. The film would have been one of his musical hits as a hero.
O Kali Topiwale Zara Naam To Bata – Kali Topi Lal Rumal (1959) Asha Bhosle & Rafi / Chitragupt – Majrooh
If the former song catches our attention with its melody and soulful rendition, this one will steal your heart with its catchy tune and चटपटे lyrics. Plus beautiful harmonica pieces in the interludes and captivating chemistry between the leading pair, Chandrashekhar and Shakeela.
Then came Barsaat Ki Raat in 1960, which was again a Vishwa Bharati film’s production, starring Madhubala and Bharat Bhushan. In the 60s, his prominent films include, Tel Malish Boot Polish (1961), Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962), King Kong (1962), Rustam e Baghdad (1963) etc.
Mehlon Mein Rehne Wali – Tel Malish Boot Polish (1961) Lata Mangeshkar & Talat Mahmood / Chitragupt – Prem Dhawan
I paid equal attention to Chandrashekhar and Kumkum, and both of them look good. But Kumkum’s smile and her presence is so magical. The song also has a good melody, typically sweet copyrighted by Chitragupt. Chandrashekhar was fortunate to have very good songs for his films. Click here for the video.
Then came a couple of films, produced and directed by Chandrashekhar himself. He was also credited for the story, screenplay and dialogues of both the films. He obviously was the main lead in both of the movies.
The first was Helen’s debut in Hindi film as a leading lady. The film also showcased the dancing talent of Chandrashekhar. Before I add my favourites from the movie, Cha Cha Cha, it would be appropriate to have a look at the dance competition portrayed in the movie. Look at the clip, he dances well and looks natural.
Now, a couple of my favourites from Cha Cha Cha. The film was a musical hit and the songs are popular till date.
And to add, of course,
Ek Chameli Ke Mandwe Tale – Cha Cha Cha (1964) Asha Bhosle & Rafi / Iqbal Qureshi – Makhdum Mohiuddin
I may call it the most popular song of the movie and perhaps the song Chandrashekhar would be remembered for. It appears to be a dream sequence, something that Helen dreams of. A bit too heavy Urdu words.
The film is also remembered for a couple of soulful songs, written by Neeraj and sung by Rafi. The songs could be said to be one of the earlier hits of Neeraj. And, instead of adding popular songs, I would add the lesser heard song,
Ek Lali Ghar Se Chali – Cha Cha Cha (1964) Rafi / Iqbal Qureshi – Bharat Vyas
The song depicts the first meeting of Chandrashekhar and Helen. A very soothing Bhajan like composition. Helen’s character is named ‘Lali’ in the movie. Unaware of his blindness, Helen thinks the song is addressed to her and he is trying to tease her. She slaps him, but is ashamed of her deed when confronted with the reality.
The second film was Street Singer in 1966. He himself played the lead role of a singer, opposite Sarita. The film had songs composed by Shankar Jaikishan. Shankar was Chandrashekhar’s schoolmate, and the latter wanted his compositions for the movie. Shankar was promoting singer Sharda and perhaps that’s why he composed songs alone under the pseudonym, Suraj. I must confess, I had not heard of the movie, and its songs. The songs are good, but I won’t call the songs great. Typical compositions of SJ. It is said that Shankar did not charge fees for the compositions. Though the film credits mention Suraj, being assistant to Shankar Jaikishan, it is said that in reality such an assistant never existed.
Ghar Ki Murgi Daal Barabar – Street Singer (1966) Rafi / Suraj – Hasrat Jaipuri
A song that portrays Chandrashekar’s dancing talent. Now a great song, but has a catchy rhythm.
Aa Aaja Aaja – Street Singer (1966) Rafi / Suraj – Hasrat Jaipuri
It’s a ‘recording studio’ song. Nearly more than half of the song is picturised there. The last verse is dedicated to portray the popularity of the record. A good song. But again not exceptionally good.
The film, Street Singer, however, couldn’t perform well at the box office. Chandrashekhar, now crossing 40, was obviously unable to get lead roles.
He was wise enough to change the track and go for character roles. He later became popular as an inspector or doctor or a lawyer or an uncle in Hindi films.
The second innings started with the role of an inspector in the film, Kati Patang (1971) under Shakti Samanta’s direction. He later became a favourite with Samanta and had roles in Ajnabee, Mehbooba and Alag Alag. His second innings was also busy as he started assisting Gulzar in 1972. He was an assistant director to Gulzar for films, Parichay, Koshish, Aandhi, Achanak, Khushboo and Mausam. It was during 1972 to 1976.
He acted in character roles for a number of films till the 1990s. As I’ve already mentioned, he played the character of Aarya Sumantra in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan. In 2000 he decided to retire fully from the film industry.
In addition to his acting career, he was also involved in other activities related to the film industry. Chandrashekhar was active in the founding of CINTAA, and he served as President of the Cine Artistes Association (CINTAA) from 1985 to 1996. He was also associated with Federation of Western India Cine Employees, All India Film Employees Confederation. He was the Vice-President of Indian Film Directors Association, and a Member with Film Writers Association, Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association. In all he was an all rounder.
He was a happy man, he bought a house in Andheri in 1974 and named it Bhav Deep. His production house also carried the same name. His children and grandchildren are continuing the legacy into acting. He perhaps had the longest career in Hindi films. Chandrashekhar’s had three children, elder son Ashok Shekhar is a known television producer. His younger son, Anil is well settled in the US. His daughter, Renu is a pathologist and her son, Shakti Arora is an well known and popular television actor. His face has quite a resemblance to his grandfather’s! Mainly his eyes!
And, with it, I end today’s post. Hope I successfully unveiled some of the lesser known facts about Chandrashekhar.
Mehfil Mein Meri, claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. Images on this blog are posted to make the text interesting. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube, only for the listening convenience of music lovers. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.