Harsh Chhaya played pivotal roles in some of the most popular TV shows of the late 1990s and early 2000s, including Hasratein, Swabhimaan, Saya, Tara, Justajoo and Astitva Ek Prem Kahani, leaving a mark on the small screen. He also starred in movies like Company, Corporate, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, Bheja Fry, Fashion and Jolly LLB. With almost three decades in showbiz under his belt, Chhaya continues to balance films and TV.
While many believe that the first screen appearance of Chhaya was in Pallavi Joshi’s TV show Aarohan, the actor revealed to us that it was actually a show called Khali Haath (1991). Directed by Khalid Sultan, it also starred Madan Jain, SM Zaheer and Vinita Malik.
Harsh Chhaya revealed that he played a blind school teacher in this show that was telecast on Doordarshan. So how did Harsh land this role and what was the show about?
Here’s what Harsh Chhaya shared:
1. How did the project Khali Haath come to you?
The very first project I did was in Delhi. This show was called Khali Haath. It was a 13-episode show. I was doing a lot of amateur theatre at that time. I had done quite a few plays with Faisal Alkazi in Delhi. I had worked a lot with Vinod Verma too. I was doing this while I was in college. Surprisingly, for me there was no audition. I guess the director got feedback about me from other people. I just met him. He sat and spoke with me for half an hour. In fact, he is the guy who told me that if you like the role, then it is yours. I had a very different experience. The director explained the role to me and I got the part. I didn’t audition for it.
I had to play a blind teacher. At that point of time, I was living in Delhi. I went to the Blind Relief Association in Delhi. There I learned how blind people are trained and some basic stuff. We began shooting post this stint. It was a good part. This was the part that got me work when I came to Bombay.
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
I was quite comfortable and I didn’t have any issue. Except that while we were not shooting or between shots, I was fooling around by being blind. We were shooting in the blind school itself and I was reprimanded for trying to act funny within the blind school. It was the excitement of a young actor playing a blind character. I wanted to check whether people can figure out that I am an actor. I suppose one of the blind school’s staff members figured it out and scolded me for misbehaving.
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
No, nothing of that sort as I wasn’t new to acting. I had been performing on stage for four or five years before that. My basic training is behind the camera. I had worked for three-four years behind the camera. Since, I wanted to be an actor, I shifted to front of the camera. I knew the whole business of television before I came in front of the camera. It is not that hard to understand. For me, it was not really a big deal. There was no such nervousness.
4. And who were your co-stars? How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later?
There was Madan Jain. Then there was Alok Nath’s sister Vinita Malik. Rapport with them was great. In fact, Madan was from Bombay and he came to Delhi to shoot for that series. I could tell people in Bombay that I have already worked in something that has already been telecast. People had seen me before I went to their office. I met Madan when I came to Bombay. I met him a couple of times.
5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what’s that one thing you’d like to change or do better?
That I don’t know because I haven’t seen it in a really long time. It is such an old thing that I vaguely remember what I did in that show. After it was telecast, I haven’t seen it and you can’t seem to find it easily on YouTube either.
6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
The acting bug bit me after watching actors like Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. Before that inspiration came from Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna. I never wanted to be a full-time actor because I never connected to the dance and action. I never thought of becoming a hero.
Then suddenly there was a phase where you saw these actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Neena Gupta, Pankaj Kapur and others. I looked up to them as actors. That’s when I decided that yes if this option is available then I want to be an actor.
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I did a complete copy paste work for my role in Khali Haath. At that time Naseeruddin Shah’s film Sparsh had released and he was playing a blind teacher in it. I got this role after that movie released. In fact, I had watched Sparsh four-five times and I did exactly what Naseer sahab did in the film. I didn’t try to experiment. I did exactly what he did in the film.