The Maachis man who conquered everyone’s hearts with his earnest performances in the 90s is back in the circuit. In a conversation over coffee, Chandrachur Singh reveals that his next films – Chaar Din Ki Chandni, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Zilla Ghaziabad – make for some interesting work and he can be expected to be around longer
Recently, while watching Vidya Balan’s The Dirty Picture, I was pleasantly surprised to see the long forgotten Chandrachur Singh in the promos of Chaar Din Ki Chandni that were aired during the intermission. Back in 2009, he attempted to return to Bollywood with his brother’s production, Maruti Mera Dost. But the film failed at the box-office and one never heard of him after that. A few days after watching the promos, I sent him an SMS and he happily agreed to do an interview. Soon we met at one of the suburban hotels after one of his regular workout sessions. Apart from having his left arm in a sling (he dislocated his arm while on the sets of Josh and since then it has become a recurring problem) and putting on a few pounds here and there, the Maachis man looks very much like he did in his first film. And quite literally! He is sporting the handlebar moustache (like he did in Maachis) but without the beard.
“You know this was my look for Samir’s (Karnik) film, but everyone (other directors) liked it very much so I was asked to keep it for other films as well,” laughs the actor. In fact, he believes that the moustache played a part in getting him the role in international filmmaker Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundmentalist. Apart from these two films, Chandrachur has Zilla Ghaziabad and another one that he would prefer not to talk about at this point. He reveals very little about his role in the forthcoming Chaar Din Ki Chandni too. “We are four brothers. I am playing an alcoholic. Someone who is pretty much on his own trip,” he says and continues, “I don’t like to speak too much. I’d like my work to speak for itself. They say you should stay at the crease in order to stay in the long run, which is what I have done to hold on to my wicket in the long run.”
It has been a long journey since 1996, but his appearances, post Aamdani Atthani Kharcha Rupaiyaa in 2001, have been sporadic and mostly unnoticed. His arm problem led to weight gain so he was forced to stay away from work, but uninspiring roles too kept him away from the silver screen. “I tried doing as much variety as possible but at that time there were only four genres – romance, action, comedy and drama. One would get slotted easily then. Today, there are character-driven films. People are experimenting and these experiments are paying off. Offbeat cinema, dark characters, grey characters, offbeat humour and smaller films – if it’s well told it does well. It is a very interesting time now but earlier the media would brand you as the ‘next best thing’ and put so much pressure. I did feel the pressure. It was all very new to me.”
Is that why he suddenly disappeared from the limelight? He ponders and then says, “Acting was never a means to the end to get stardom. As you know, I was a music teacher before being an actor so the trappings of stardom did not matter to me. I am enjoying my work while I am there. And that’s what I did in the start. It’s always been quality over quantity. The films I did were appreciated by the public. And the recall of the public is amazing. So the respect and love of the public that I get is for the films I have done in the past.”
But unlike the past he is no longer playing the protagonist. For long now, he has been the character on the sidelines. He quickly dismisses that the transition bothers him. “Actually I am in love with my work more than ever. The pressure’s off.” He continues, “I am a firm believer of destiny. I believe what you are supposed to do, you are supposed to do. Some things are meant to work out and some things are not. It doesn’t stress me out that I wasn’t around for so long. I have done my round. I had the easy entry, then the struggle and then the real break. For an actor who has been around for so long, the numbers of films I have done are very few.”
So this time around what kind of work is he interested in? “Honest to god. I don’t have the luxury of making the project and being so involved creatively in it. I am so not in the commercial bandwagon to even dictate terms. It’s like a new beginning for me. My fingers are crossed and I am moving along gradually.” Does he have plan or strategy? Chandrachur laughs, “I never have any plans. I want to do lots of good work and polish my craft. Obviously you need to be back in the groove and that needs little practice and that can happen only on the field. Also the other thing is the personal journey of an individual. In this line, your soul goes through a journey. It shakes your soul. There are extreme highs and extreme lows which are microscopically watched. It is a very important part of being an actor which I did not understand up till now. I never understood the aspect of ‘experiences enriching you as actor’ where you don’t need much emotional memory to create a character. The personal journey of a human being is very important for an actor.”
And he says that this is what kept him busy while he was away from the arc lights. Chandrachur tied the knot some years ago and is a father of a five-year-old son. Ask him about fatherhood and his face lights up with joy. “When I was away I was occupied with my son. He is in his formative years so that period has been the most fruitful and joyful time of my life. He is also musically gifted and has wider interest than me. Often the two of us visit music shops and spends hours there. He knows most instruments. So we make for good companions.”
Interestingly, it was during those father-son bonding moments that he got offered Chaar Din Ki Chandni. One evening he was out with his son in the mall when Samir Karnik walked up to him and offered him a role. Let’s hope that after experiencing a satisfying personal life, Chandrachur has a good time building his second innings in Bollywood too.