Uday Mahesh, who featured as ‘Chellam sir’ in The Family Man 2, on what it was like to play a character that became a fan-favourite
Speaking with Uday Mahesh over the phone makes me feel like I were a character in The Family Man 2. In the series, Uday plays Chellam sir, a retired spy capable of ironing out concerns pertaining to geopolitical tensions over a phone call. For Srikant Tiwari (Manoj Bajpayee), this master spy is always a phone call away at times of crisis. When I called Uday to schedule a zoom conversation, there wasn’t much difference between his baritone and Chellam’s. Furthermore, throughout the conversation, his responses were precise and mindful, much like Chellam himself.
The actor and filmmaker, who has two directorial credits in his filmography—Naalai and Chakra Vyugam—is best known for his role of Vishwanath in the Star Vijay show, Office. Uday attributes his plunge into acting to Naveen, the director of the 2013 black comedy, Moodar Koodam. “I was on a film set for a different purpose when Naveen approached me to play Salim Bhai, a comic don, in his film. Although I was reluctant initially, I relented after his compulsion, and that marked the onset of my acting career,” says Uday, who went on to act in films like Jeeva, Enkkul Oruvan, Kabali, Velaikkaran, and Nerkonda Paarvai, among others.
On how he landed a role in The Family Man, Uday shares, “Mukesh Chhabra’s casting agency reached out to me to audition for the role of Deepan (a role Azhagam Perumal eventually bagged). When they didn’t return for almost two months, I assumed I didn’t make the cut. However, they returned to ask if I’d be interested in playing another character, a man named Chellam. Given that I had enjoyed the first season of the show, I was happy, even if just to be a tiny part of it.”
Chellam, despite his limited screen time, has turned out to be a memorable character. Having witnessed the role’s metamorphosis from paper to screen, Uday adds, “Raj and DK briefed me about the character on the location, and I felt that the comical element of the character may work with the viewers. Raj and DK keep their actors comfortable and allow them to perform. They allowed me to improvise on set and that’s how Chellam came to be.”
‘Chellam sir’ has grown popular amongst the online community, achieving ‘meme stardom' almost instantaneously. Acknowledging the character’s popularity, Uday says, “The weekend it premiered, I was working on a script with a friend of mine, and I started receiving calls and messages from friends. Many of them were forwarding me the memes as well. When I came across these memes, I initially thought it was a passing trend, but they were unrelenting for the next few days. It was then that I realised that people had enjoyed this character.”
As someone in the industry for over two decades, does this validation come across as vindication of his work? Uday has a humble answer: “I don’t see this as an accomplishment. As an actor, I have more to learn. This praise is a responsibility. When choosing future projects, I hope to be extremely conscious… like Chellam.”