Chandra Mohan

Chandra Mohan, the great character actor of Indian films, born on the 24th July 1906 at Narsinghpur in the Central Provinces. Chandra Mohan Watal belonged to a cultured family of Kashmiri Pundits. Though his father Jagannath Sahai Watal, was a Kashmiri Brahmin but he was employed in the state of Gwalior, so the childhood of Chandramohan was spent in those parts.

His mother Roop Kishori Watal died when he was very small and he was brought up by his maternal grandmother. As a result of being the beloved grandson of his maternal grandmother, Chandramohan was spoilt right from his childhood and he did not get much education, but access to movies made him addicted to liquor, horse racing as well as reading. He had a good library of Urdu books (written in Hindi script) as well as English books. He was a fluent speaker in English.

After the death of his father, he left home. He did odd jobs at various places. One of these jobs was in a movie distribution company. It was through this company that he entered the movie world. He took up work with a film distributing firm in Delhi and during one of his business tours was picked up by the Prabhat Film Company of Poona to star in their picture "Amrit Manthan".

Amrit Manthan 1934
Close up of his eye in film Amrit Manthan 1934
Blessed with a dynamic personality, a pair of unique eyes and a remarkable talent for acting and diction, Chandra Mohan easily reached the top of his career* without the help of any producer or director. His versatile personality as a superb character-actor lent caste to many an ambitious director who, after a single great performance by Chandra Mohan, was himself recognized as a filmcraftsman.

Syed Fateh Lal, the great artist of Prabhat, was so much fascinated by Chandra Mohan's unique eyes that he would sit for hours looking at them wondering how they would be received on the screen.

With his very first picture, Chandra Mohan arrived and was soon hailed as the greatest character-actor of the Indian screen. After "Amrit Manthan", he worked in numerous pictures, some of his big hits being: "Dharmatma", "Amar Jyoti", "Pukar", "Draupadi", "Shaheed"" and "Shakuntala".

In 1940 film Bharosa
In 1940 film 'Bharosa'
Chandramohan was fluent in Marathi and he acted in 3-4 Marathi movies as well. Two of them was "Geete" and "Aaple Ghar." They were remade into Hindi as "Geeta" and "Apna Ghar" respectively. In "Apna Ghar" he expressed himself with minimal use of dialogues and maximum use of the gestures of his eyes and left his mark in a memorable role of a cruel husband. Shanta Apte played his wife.

He liked to help needy people discreetly. He was fond of buying race horses, betting and best quality scotch whisky. Actor Motilal was of similar interests and he too had the same tastes. That is why the two were close friends. His horse riding friends included, besides Motilal, the Maharaja of Kashmir-Harisingh, and the Maharaja of Gwalior Jeewajirao Scindia. Other close friends were K N Singh, K. L Saigal and Prithviraj. There were three more close friends that Chandramohan had: Kumar (Sangtarash of Mughal-e-Azam), Ulhas and Rajan Haksar.

His cook was called Mohammed and Mr Patel was his private secretary.

During March 1949, his health deteriorated all of a sudden. After an illness of 15 days, he realised that the end was near. He asked his companion Sheila James (Chandramohan never married), who was still by his side, to call Motilal and Kumar. He died of heart failure at his residence, 16, Bilkha House* (now called as Ram Mahal), Churchgate, in Bombay, at 10:15 A.M. on Saturday 2nd April 1949.

Leonine in bearing and noble in character, Chandra Mohan was recognized as a great friend and sports-man to whom all rushed in their hour of need.

Born: Chandra Mohan Watal
24th July 1906
Narsinghpur, Central Provinces, India
Died:  2nd April 1949 (aged 42)
Bombay, India
Years Active: 1933-1949
Parent(s): Jagannath Sahai Watal (Father)
Roop Kishori Watal (Mother)
Relatives: Sushila Kak (Sister)
Manmohan Nath Watal (Brother)
Leela Watal (Sister)

In 1940

Film Roti

In 1942

In film Roti

In Bharosa

In 1942

Poster of film Apna Ghar. It was released in 1942.

*His earning for the year 1940 was Rs. 45000/-.
* Now called Ram Mahal, Bilkha House stands near the Rasna restaurant at the end of Dinshaw Vaccha Road in Churchgate, and was built in the 1940s by the ruling prince of Bilkha, on the plot that formed part of the Bombay Backbay Reclamation.
*His telephone no. was 26333.

Sabita with Chandramohan in 1943 film Fashion
This photograph from "Fashion", a Fazli picture, is an eloquent proof of the world of difference in talent between two artistes. Here is Chandramohan, set tense to throttle Sabita, while Sabita takes it with comfort without a twitch of any muscle. She knows it is a motion picture "throttling" and Chandramohan doesn't mean it. Isn't Chandramohan' s 'action' wasted when with his cat-eyes and strong throttling he ends by making the other party only more comfortable. 


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ShimlaTimes: Chandra Mohan
Chandra Mohan
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