Chandrasekhar is fondly remembered as one of the most versatile heroes of the golden era of Hindi cinema. And yet, if it was not for the unpredictability of the course of history he may have never become a film star.
He was born on 7 July, 1923 in Hyderabad to Gaurishankar Vaidya, an Ayurvedic doctor. Despite having Telugu as his mother tongue, Chandrasekhar was schooled in Urdu and Farsi. As a young man he was fond of wrestling where his common sparring partner was Shankar of Shankar-Jaikishan fame. But the political situation in Hyderabad worsened. When the Arya Samaj rebelled against the Nizam, a crackdown on the youth started which prompted Chandrasekhar to flee to Bangalore. In Bangalore he tried to act in films but his poor grasp of Telugu prevented him from making any ground there. Upon the advice of studio people there, he travelled to Bombay in 1941 to try his luck there.
Initially working as a junior artist, Chandrasekhar was ultimately hired by W.Z. Ahmed and Nina’s Shalimar Studio at the insistence of Shamshad Begum. He acted in Shalimar Studios’ Prithviraj Sanyukta (1946). Under Pt Bharat Vyas’s direction he acted as a supporting hero in Rangila Rajasthan (1949). As tensions soared in Pune after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, Chandrasekhar had to leave Pune for Bombay.
In Bombay, he met the legendary Marathi actor and director Keshavrao Date who got him a job at V Shantaram’s Rajkamal Studios. He worked in two of their films – Apna Desh (1949) and Dahej (1950). He also learned editing while he was there. But due to personal issues, his time there was short-lived. Chandrasekhar played a significant role in the Bharat Bhooshan starrer Bebus (1950). Chandrasekahr credits this role as being an important step in his career as it led to him getting the lead role in V Shantaram’s Surang (1953). Surang established as a leading male hero in the industry and offers started pouring in after that. He acted in films like Kavi (1954), Mastana (1954), Baradari(1955), Zindagi Ke Mele (1956), Taxi Stand (1958), Tel Malish Boot Polish (1961) and many more. He worked extensively in Bhagwan Dada and CM Trivedi’s films.
Chandrasekhar was hardworking and laboured to make up for any of his shortcomings. As he did not have any dancing experience he trained himself to become a better dancer. He made two films as a producer-director – Cha Cha Cha (1964) and Street Singer (1966) where he was a dancing hero. For Street Singer the music was given by his old friend Shankar, who had to work under the pseudonym Sooraj due to other contractual obligations.
After 35 films as a hero, he transitioned into character roles. He played a significant role in Ajnabi (1974), Mehbooba (1976), Saajan Bina Suhagan (1978), Namak Halaal (1982), Coolie (1983) and Sharabi (1984).
After a long and productive career in films, Chandrasekhar retired. At the age of 97, he passed away on 16 June, 2021 in his residence. His industry and versatility as an actor will be fondly remembered.
Image courtesy: Shishir Krishna Sharma