One more rare and genuine success stories of Mumbai , the city of dreams came to an end at 7 10 am on June 16 Chandrashekhar Vaidya , who came to Bombay as a young nobody and ended up with his own empire ( Bhav Deep Films) left his impressions on the sands of time and left for an unknown destination about which neither he knew , nor I know – Ali Peter John
All I know is that he was taken in an ambulance to the Juhu crematorium and his frail body went up in flames and he like many of his friends was reduced to ashes, after spending more than half a century in this city which he believed gave him much more than he deserved.
I first met him at one of his grand birthday parties at Bhav Deep , the bungalow he had built when there was andhera in Andheri many years ago .
It was at this party that I saw legends like Ashok Kumar , Dilip Kumar , Dara Singh , K N Singh , Bharat Bhushan , Ruby Myers , P, Jairaj , Nadira , Helen and so many many more belonging to different eras.
This galaxy of celebrities was more than an introduction to the man called Chandrashekhar Vaidya for me .
And knowing him just by that one party and being introduced to him by my senior , Mr R M Kuntakar who was his very good friend , tempted me to know more about him .
And for the next forty years , I just tried knowing him and now that he has gone away, there is still so much I want to know about him.
Chandrashekhar was a college dropout from Hyderabad (now Telangana ) who came to Bombay in the hope of making it in Hindi films .
He slept on different pavements in Bombay and made the rounds of studios in quest of any job he could find .
V .Shantaram’s Rajkamal studios proved to be a lucky destination for the struggler . Those days , there were different classes of extras like ” Decent Class” ,”Ordinary Class” and ,”Crowd Class” .
The class depended on how one looked and what kind of clothes one wore . Chandrashekhar was a tall , dark and yet handsome man and so was given several opurtunities to be a part of the “Decent Class” for which he was paid a few rupees and was served lunch or dinner as per the time and shift in which he was shooting .
Shantaram who had a keen eye for talent , kept observing the young Chandrashekhar and took him by complete surprise when he told him that he was casting him as the hero of his film, “Surang” which was made in 1953 ( just imagine , it was a time when I was just three years old ) . It was the beginning of a career that was going to last for the next fifty seven years .
Chandrashekhar or Shekhar Sahab as he was called after he became a hero and how he was called by every one even after he gave up acting when he was 78 years old .
He couldn’t really make it very big as a leading man and produced his own films in which he played the hero.
He was a dancing star in “Cha Cha Cha” and “Street Singer” . His friend from Hyderabad Shankar Raghuvanshi who was now a part of the famous team of Shankar – Jaikishan volunteered to compose the music of Cha Cha Cha without charging his friend any money , but had to take the name Suraj as the music director for his friend’s film .
The two films did nominal or average business which was a hint to Shekhar Sahab to give up playing leading roles and change to play supporting or character roles which he played successfully without any ego problems .
He played character roles in the films of Bharat Bhushan who was his contemporary and had grown into a big star and with Dara Singh who he himself had promoted and later even with Rajesh Khanna .
And then it was only the small and courtroom scenes and party scenes and he accepted all the roles that came his way without any complex or regret .
I remember meeting Shekhar Sahab when he was shooting for a party scene in Prakash Mehra’s “Namak Halaal” at the Film City .
He was as friendly as ever and when I asked him how he felt standing with men who were called ” extras” , he had said , ” Ali Baba , kaam, kaam hota hai , isme agar chhota aur badda kiya toh kuch nahi hoga . Insaan ko kaam karte rehna chaaiyie ” .
It was at the same shooting that Amitabh Bachchan told me the same thing but in his own way .
It was when Shekhar Sahab had turned fifty that he took a very strange decision to join Gulzar as one of his assistant directiors and worked as Gulzar’s assistant during the making of his films like ,, “Koshish” “Achanak” ,Aandhi, Mausam , Lekin and Meera among others . It is one of his decisions that no one ever questioned .
And as he kept busy doing the roles he was asked to do , he took very active interest in the activities of several Associations of the industry and his contribution to association’s like CINTAA and to the Federation of Cine Employees , the Film Writers Association and to every association has been unparalleled .
He was the leader of the industry who made people in the industry believe that no problems could be solved by stopping work, calling for bandhs , gheraos and going on long strikes.
He believed that continuing work and peaceful dialogue were the only ways to resolve even the most difficult issues .
He had the privilege of speaking in a parliamentary meeting to explain the problems of the industry to a committee of MPs and ministers .
He was also chosen to speak at the International Labour Organisation ( ILO) to explain to world leaders how the film industry in Bombay worked peacefully because it never closed down work . His speech was applauded with a standing ovation .
Whenever there was a calamity like war, floods, famine , epidemics and droughts in the country, it was men like Dilip Kumar , Sunil Dutt , Nargis , David Abraham and Chandrashekhar who led drives to collect funds . Shekhar Sahab was often asked by Dilip Kumar to plan and lead such massive drives.
Shekhar Sahab was a born leader and I am sure that if he had contested any elections , he would have won hands down . He was one of the driving forces during all the election campaigns of the Congress Party without being a member of the party .
The unusual man who could work twenty four hours a day suddenly grew inactive and spent most of his time at home and kept writing letters to the Presidents , Prime Ministers, other ministers and down to the local MLAs , Corporators and police stations to complain about local and other grievances which upset him . He had a secretary , but he wrote all his letters in his own handwriting .
This one man peaceful army could have won many more wars , but age and circumstances kept coming in his way .
He still continued his wars , but what could he do when age and the problems that go with it had desided to knock him out .
Shekhar Sahab had hardly any regrets , but towards the end he believed that he deserved the Dadasaheb Phalke Award and even wrote letters to people in high places to ask them to consider him for the award and he kept expecting the award which refused to come to him , as there must have been other useless and sometimes useful men who deserved it .
And when I went to see him two months ago , the only ambition he had was to live to see his hundredth birthday which would have been on July 7 , 2023 .
But the same destiny which as he said had given him everything cruelly decided to be nasty to him and had taken away some of his best dreams from him before 7. 10 am on June 16 when he peacefully went to sleep, never to wake up again.
SHEKHAR SAHAB NE HUM SAB KO BAHUT KUCH DIYA HAI. WOH KOI MAHATMA YA MASEEHA NAHI THE ,WOH EK DIL WAALE INSAAN THE JINKA DHARAM THA INSAANO KE KAAM AANA . ALVIDA, SHEKHAR SAHAB, LEKIN AAP KI YAADEIN LAAKHO LOGO KE DILL MEIN HAMESHA REHENGE
Shekhar Sahab could hardly speak English when he first came to Bombay , but he had determined to master the difficult language and he did .
He could speak in English to any one , even to the English men and women and win their hearts
Shekhar started his life sleeping on the footpath near the Dadar Station and had to pay the local hoodlums four anna’s a week as his “rent” to sleep in the same place or the place would be given to someone else .
He was very friendly with all the big stars who treated him with respect even though filmmakers called him a B grade actor .
He was married at the age of fourteen to Pushpa and they were married for seventy years and when Pushpa died , Shekhar Sahab said he felt like a stranger in his own house.
He had a maid called Malti who knew all about his likes and dislikes and was with him for almost fifty years and was there with him even on the morning he left this world
He had a party on July 7 to celebrate his birthday and a number of people from the industry and especially the press attended these parties where the kababs were the highlight , besides the Indian liquors because he said , ” I am a poor actor and cannot afford to serve scotch “.
His parties were more of a family affair and were loved and looked forward to Actors like Bharat Bhushan , Jairaj , K N Singh and Nadira regularly visited him .
But he was very find of Dilip Kumar because of his talent and his knowledge about every major subject and especially English , Urdu , Pashtu and Persian literature .
He always referred to him as the ” Pali Waala Baaba” and people used to wonder who this Pali Waala Baaba was .
He was quite close to leaders like Nehru , Mrs Indira Gandhi , Dr Zakir Husain and even Bal Thackeray and had a very special place for Sunil Dutt who he called , ” upar waale ka sabse pyaara dost aur mera bhi”.
On one of his birthdays , he invited only the staff of the FWICE and surprised the wives when he instead of receiving presents, gave an envolope to each of the women who had daughters and asked them to deposit the money in the names of their daughters and give the interest coming from the amount to their daughters on the day of their wedding as a gift from him .
He woke up very early and did his yoga till he was eighty and then read all the newspapers and had a good breakfast served to him by his faithful maid , Malati, He never had a big car, but always had a Fiat which he drove himself.
One of my great moments was when he read my autobiography and said that my writing was ” a blend of Mirza Ghalib and Charlie Chaplin ” he took great pleasure in introducing me to his friends and others with the same line, He never treated me like a journalist , but always like a member of his family.
I was frankly a little worried when I went to see him recently . But when he recognised me and rememberd many events and happenings .
He called the industry “a paatshaala “where a good student could learn everything about life, Another interesting belief he had was that the industry never left anyone to go to sleep on an empty stomach.
And his favourite line about himself was “Kabhi arsh par, kabhi farsh par , kabhi unke dar kabhi dar badar, najane kahan kahan guzar gaya main”.
In the 60s Shekhar Sahab hosted some of the best kavi sammelans and mushairas at Bhav Deep and poets like Josh Mallihabadi, Firaq Gorakhpuri , Qamar Jalalabadi , Kaifi Azmi , K A Abbas , Sahir Ludhianvi and Dr Harivanshrai Bachchan assembled to relish good poetry and the best food and whiskey served by Shekhar Sahab .
He always remembered that young , tall and very shy boy who was the son of Dr Harivanshrai Bachchan and whose name was Amitabh Bachchan and no one had even a look at him , but he had seen a bright future for him .
Aur zindagi ka kamaal dekhiye , Sahab,ek din aisa bhi ayya jab wohi Amitabh Bachchan bade nayak ban gaye aur Shekhar Sahab glass pakde door koi kone mein khade the.
SHEKHAR SAHAB KI KAHANI EK DILCHASP KITAAB BAN SAKTI HAI AUR ISS KHWAAB KO SACH KARNA KYA HUM SAB KA KAAM NAHI HAI.?
Last Rides of LT. Chandrashekhar Vaidya Ji