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Yesteryear actor Chandrashekhar is 97 years young! (Where Are They Now?)

At the ripe old age of 97, renowned Bollywood actor-filmmaker of yesteryear Chandrashekhar G. Vaidya doesnt cease to surprise his four-generations of family, friends, fans and film buffs.
Yesteryear actor Chandrashekhar is 97 years young! (Where Are They Now?)

With more than 110 films behind him, including two of his famous own directions – "Cha Cha Cha" (1964) and "Street Singer" (1966), the veteran was fondly addressed by the industry as just "Chandrashekhar Sa'b".

While many big names of his era have faded into the pages of history, Chandrashekhar is still a sprightly 'young man', loves to dress up formally, relishes lavish proper seven-course meals with chicken or mutton biryanis among his favourites - and the dinner-table affair often lasting upto 90 minutes - and remains the cherished idol of his many little great-grandchildren.

"Papa-ji amazes us all, everyday… God has blessed him with such good health. It was on July 7th he celebrated his 97th birthday with the enthusiasm of a teenager, laughing, joking, eating his favourite dishes, and making merry. He inspires us so much," his doting son, Ashok Shekhar, himself a well-known TV serial maker, told .

Counted among a distinctive class of actors who started from scratch as a junior artiste, by sheer dint of hard work, he went onto make a mark as an actor, dancer, writer and film-maker, besides being a voracious reader.

"It was Papa-ji who recognized the immense talent of the young Helen and gave her a break as a lead heroine in his 1964 superhit film 'Cha Cha Cha'… She went onto become a legend in her own right," Ashok Shekhar said.

Routinely, he said 'Papa-ji' is up by 7.30 a.m., dresses up as per his choice, enjoys a light breakfast of dry-fruits, juices or milk, reads several newspapers of the day in the garden outside, watches a bit of TV, indulges in full seven course meals starting with a soup and ending with dessert, often lasting upto 90 minutes, catches up with some news-views on television, occasionally reminisces about the golden past of Bollywood with his mind still razor-sharp.

Born in the erstwhile state of Hyderabad on July 7, 1923, the young Chandrashekhar was struck by the magical world of films from an early age which made him drop out of college.

As he proved to be very fluent in Hindi and Urdu, many advised him to try his chances in the upcoming Hindi film industry instead of the regional Telugu films and he came to Bombay in the early 1940s, armed with a diploma in western dancing from the UK.

In that black-and-white films era when giants like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Rajendra Kumar, ruled the roost, the young Chandrashekhar succeeded in carving his own niche with sheer hard work.

"It was a recommendation from (the late singer) Shamshad Begum that my father got a job with Shalimar Studios in Pune. Name and fame followed soon with the film 'Bebas' (1950) with the first 'chocolatey-hero' Bharat Bhushan," Ashok Shekhar recalled.

A bond developed between Bharat Bhushan and Chandrashekhar, helping the latter get a firm footing in the film industry as an established actor.

Over the years, he acted in several major films like his debut "Surang" (1953), "Kavi" and "Mastana" (both, 1954), "Baradari" (1955), "Basant Bahaar" (1956), "Kaali Topi Laal Rumaal" (1959), "Barsaat Ki Raat" (1960), "Baat Ek Raat Ki" (1961).

Later, he decided to make his own films and made major hits like "Cha Cha Cha" and "Street Singer" among others, donning the hat of a director, producer, writer, actor, dancer, et al.

The other important films he featured in include: "King Kong" (1962), "Rustom-e-Baghdad" (1963), "Sardar", "Kanyadaan" (1968), and the notable role of Sumantra in the epic teleserial, "Ramayan" (1987).

As he became a senior, he gracefully slipped into important character roles in films like "Kati Patang", "Mehbooba", "Namak Halaal", "Barsaat Ki Ek Raat", "Coolie", "Sharaabi", "Shakti", "Vardaan", "Ajnabee" besides many others till his swansong film, "Khauff" (2000), after which he officially retired from Bollywood.

He is among the rare actors in Bollywood who worked with some of the top directors and mega-stars of that era – V. Shantaraam, Nitin Bose, Devki Bose, Vijay Bhatt, Bhagwan, B.R. Chopra, Prakash Mehra, Manmohan Desai, Shakti Samanta, Ramanand Sagar, Pramod Chakraborthy, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Rajendra Kumar, Bharat Bhushan, Dara Singh, Rajesh Khanna, Manoj Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan, among others.

"Films were his love, but people of the film industry were his greatest concern, given his humble beginnings. He served in the industry as President of the Cine Artistes Association (CINTAA) for many years," Ashok Shekhar expalined.

He served in different capacities as President of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees, All India Film Employees Confederation, trustee of Cine Artistes Welfare Fund of India and Cine Artiste Welfare Trust, Vice-President of Indian Film Directors Association, associated as Member with Film Writers Association, Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association and on several official government committees and panels.

Having passed on the baton to his son Ashok Shekhar, 64, Anil Shekhar, 58, Ashok's son Vishal Shekhar, a reputed ad film maker, medico Renu (Chandrashekhar's daughter) Arora, 74, and her son Shakti Arora who is a well-known actor in teleserials like "Pavitra Rishta", Chandrashekhar never hesitates to give them professional or career tips.

Conferred with a room-full of awards, honours and certificates for his contribution to the film industry, Ashok Shekhar said that the now the huge family is eagerly looking forward to celebrating Chandrashekhar's 100th birthday in 2023.

(Quaid Najmi can be reached at q.najmi@.in)

( With inputs from IANS )

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