Chellam sir, a retired spy who comes to the rescue of Manoj Bajpayee's Srikant Tiwari in the latest season of espionage action-thriller The Family Man, is now a national rage and the subject of viral memes. Actor Uday Mahesh, who played the "super conscious" former intelligence officer on the Amazon Prime Video series, says he is up for a spin-off on the beloved character and even a reprisal in the upcoming season three.
Chellum's popularity is similar to that of Bob Biswas, an insurance agent by the day, Biswas moonlights as a hitman in the Vidya Balan-starrer 2012 Kahaani. The character is now getting a spin-off film with Abhishek Bachchan. Asked if he was game for a Chellam stand-alone series given the popularity of the character, Mahesh told PTI over telephone from Chennai, "If I get an offer like that, I would definitely love to do it. Even for Family Man 3, if they'll call me, I'll be up for it."
The 51-year-old, who is primarily a writer and director in Tamil cinema, said he had first auditioned for the role of Dheepan, a senior Sri Lankan Tamil fighter who uses diplomacy to achieve the cause of liberation.
The role was eventually played by Azhagam Perumal. Two months after no word from the team, Mahesh received a callback and they offered him the role of Chellam. Since The Family Man was a hit show, the actor said, he wanted to be a part of it. "So I said yes to the role," the actor said about his extended cameo.
The creators of the show Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK briefed him about the character, who is now a viral sensation on social media via memes, when they met on the set. "They said this is a retired spy who helps Srikant and they have worked together some time in the past. He is a super conscious spy. It was an interesting part."
From tossing sim cards into shopping bags, abruptly hanging up a call to chiding Srikant over wasting water, Chellam is now part of the pop culture in the digital age. In the series, the character seems to give a breakthrough to Srikant every time he hits a roadblock in his mission, with a meme equating Chellam with Google, the search engine on the Internet. "I liked the role because there was a comical touch to it. We never thought this was going to be so huge," Mahesh added.
Born and brought up in Chennai, the actor holds a diploma in chemical engineering from Central Polytechnic College. But he was not interested in studying and wanted to join the Merchant Navy. "I could not join the Merchant Navy due to family pressure. When I was studying in college, I had a passion for cinema. But I didn't know how to get into it."
Around the same time Mahesh met cinematographer Natarajan Subramaniam, known as Nutty, through a common friend. "Through Nutty, I got an entry into the industry as an assistant director. Slowly, I worked towards becoming a writer and director," he said.
He made his directorial debut in 2006 with Naalai, starring Richard Rishi and Madhumitha, and introduced Natraj as an actor. Two years later, they reunited for "Chakkara Viyugam".
Mahesh also co-wrote the story of Shoojit Sircar's directorial debut Yahaan (2005) while he was working with the filmmaker for his production house in Mumbai. Acting was an accident, Mahesh said who has since worked in films like Kabali and Madras Cafe and STAR Vijay series Office.
Director Naveen wanted him to play the role of Salim bhai, a funny don, in the 2013 Tamil black comedy Moodar Koodam. "I was reluctant to act. Naveen forced me and eventually I said yes. I wanted to be known as a writer-director, not an actor. There are so many great actors in the industry, comparatively I'm nothing," Mahesh said.
When Madras Cafe, also directed by Sircar in which Mahesh played an intelligence officer, happened, he was helping the director in casting the film on location in Kochi.
"Shoojit offered me a small character in Madras Cafe and I couldn't refuse because I was getting to share screen space with John Abraham." Working with Bajpayee on the series was a "delight and honour", Mahesh said. After the success of The Family Man, the actor said if a good character comes his way, he will "definitely" take it up. "But I'm keen on writing and directing," he added.
Next, Mahesh is looking forward to directing a movie in Tamil.