Veteran actor Chandrashekhar turns 90!

The Bollywood and TV actor-filmmaker will celebrate his 90th birthday with family and friends

Born July 7, 1922, grand old actor Chandrashekhar turns 90 today. Four generations of family members will gather in Mumbai on the occasion to make it memorable occasion for the legend, known for films like Kali Topi Lal Rumal (1959) and Baradari (1955). Unlike in the past, when his birthdays were big parties with top Bollywood personalities joining to sing Happy birthday to you, Chandrashekhar has requested a quiet affair this year.

“I can’t handle so many guests and would not like to disappoint anybody,” Chandrashekhar advised his son Ashok Shekhar, himself a veteran film and television personality for the past four decades.

Chandrashekhar worked in some 112 movies since his debut with Aurat Teri Yehi Kahani in 1954. Over the years, he was seen in several prominent movies with top directors in various roles ranging from lead to character. Some of his film include Surang, Rustam-E-Baghdad, Street Singer, Basant Bahar, Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, Kati Patang, Sharaabi, Shakti and Ajnabee.

Later, Chandrashekhar made his own movie, Cha, Cha, Cha with Helen as his leading lady and it went onto become a musical hit. He later made Street Singer.

He also portrayed the character of Sumantra in Ramanand Sagar’s epic teleserial Ramayan, and appeared for his last role in Khauff before retiring from Bollywood, son Ashok said. Since then, he occasionally watched the black and white telecast of his earlier movies as a hero on various television channels.

“He regularly chats with people like Dilip Kumar or Pran and reminisces about the good old days… He feels very upset whenever he hears of any of his colleagues passing away, like Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Yash Chopra, Rajesh Khanna and others,” said Ashok. Though frail, Chandrashekhar continues to be a disciplinarian in all aspects of life and maintains his good health.

“But, he loves to indulge in a leisurely six-seven course full meal lasting up to 100 minutes, which he savours watching TV or reading,” Ashok smiled. Another favourite hobby is writing letters – postcards, inlands, airmails – to family members, old friends, admirers and even casual acquaintances.

“My father does not use a mobile phone, and is not comfortable with emails…. So, one of our biggest household expenses is on stationery and stamps for his dozen-odd daily letters. Nobody minds it, as it keeps him happy and ‘in touch’ with everybody,” added Ashok.

Chandrashekhar felt very sad when his wife of 72 years Pushpa died in 2010 and wished she was alive with him to celebrate the platinum jubilee of their marriage this year.

Now, Chandrashekhar name in the industry is being carried forward by son Shekhar, grandsons Shakti Arora (currently seen as doctor Onir in popular TV serial Pavitra Rishta) and well-known ad filmmaker Vishal Shekhar (not to be confused with music director duo Vishal-Shekhar).

During his heydays, Shekhar saab, as he was referred to by colleagues, was one of the industry leaders, taking part in various social, charitable and community initiatives during natural or manmade calamities hitting the country.

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