ASH CHANDLER- THE CONSUMATE ENTERTAINER
Posted by Arjun Sekhri on December 6, 2009 | No Comments
What else can you call someone who is an actor, a singer, a Stand Up performer and if that is not enough, also an entrepreneur. Ash Chandler, defied logic by showing up as a NRI in Mumbai, India, some years ago, the showing up was not where logic got topsy turvy, but how he embraced the city, which instantly made him one of it’s own, is a path no NRI artist before, and few after, have traversed. As if having all of these creative talents were not enough for one person, the craving to have a slice of pizza, as opposed to a whole pizza and also the desire to bring Italian food in India, out of the 5 stars and into the reach of the average Mumbaikar, made him start a very successful Italian bistro in Bandra, Mumbai, and of course his other love, the bikes, he also started a company that customized bikes, the Mumbai Motorcycle Company.
So here we get to spend some time with Ash, as this artist who pioneered Stand Up in India, takes some time off from his LA trip to talk to us. Over to Ash:
When I look at you, you represent that most seamless adjustment case of a person who grew up, for the most part in the US, shows up in Mumbai and fits right into the scene there, how did you accomplish that?
Interestingly if I had tried I don’t know what the situation would be, I took a three week vacation, was living in Santa Monica at that time, showed up in Mumbai and second week that I was there I ended up getting a record deal with Magnasound. I also ended up performing at a club in Mumbai called Jazz by the Bay, and I was like discovered by India. For years prior to that in LA it had been a struggle, and then suddenly in India the newspaper says I’m the first person to have an English Language Stand Up in India. So it was a mix of opportunities and an interesting time for me and I ended up getting all this work there, so it was just a good fit.
Well let’s get back in time, what got you into showbiz, and I say that cause you obviously do multiple things, stand up, singing, acting, almost all aspects of showbiz?
Being a son of a Prof in Psychology and an Immigration Lawyer, education came easy and I ended up graduating high school a year earlier, and then I ended up getting a theater scholarship, it’s something I’ve always gravitated towards, I was in theater even when in school.We wrote skits and did theater workshop with all the stalwarts of the theater world and that was a valuable experience and I was also making like $60 a show and we did something like 200 shows a year. This lead to doing Stand Up, put my first band together and then the six years in LA and then the last ten in India and now spending splitting my time between LA and India.
I’ve seen you in Shikhar and My Bollywood Bride amongst others, Stand Up, Singing….?
And I’ve done Television, The Man’s World Show, anchored with Hrajesh Virjee. Where we did an interview with folks such as Will Smith to a bevy of Bollywood actors. So that makes it three years in Television and 6 films in India.
What is your preference, as in I want to do THIS in THIS city..?
Well doing Stand Up in the States is more fun for me because there is no uphill battle of educating the audience cause it is a performance, still remember in one of my India shows this lady came up to me at the end of my Stand Up routine and said, “Your were really good, we didn’t even miss the PERFORMER!!!” So it was one of those things where they were not even used to the idea that Stand Up is a performance. Acting is more depending on the project and the unit you are with, as opposed to geography, since every unit is a microcosm in itself. I’ve had some great experiences and some shitty experiences in both the East and the West.
In the films that I did see you in, didn’t get the impression that Mumbai had used all of your talents, it was more a case of “he is a comic, let’s put him there and that’s it?”
Let me put it this way, I’ve been in this industry for about twenty years now, had my struggles and tried to make the most of what has come to me, but as an actor I would be ungrateful if I said that…I mean there is that ideal circumstance, every one is looking to find their Martin Scorsese who will put them in fifty films and really capitalize on all their various shades. End of the day, truth of the matter is My Bollywood Bride is a film I had to fight for. They said you’re playing a rickshaw driver, you’re a NRI, I actually shaved my head, gained some weight, went to the director’s house and he said that “sahib ghar mein nahin hain,” so I had to go and convince them for it. So I think they let me do my thing and same thing for John, in Shikhar, he came to my restaurant in Mumbai, said he wanted me to play a designer but not the Bollywood kind, hence he didn’t want to go to the typical Bollywood actor, he needed someone who can make the audience believe that he has traveled the world and can be convincing. So the point I’m trying to make is that yes I would love to meet that director who gives me a lead role and let’s me play different shades I would love that, but as an actor I’m very grateful for the parts that I have been given. I mean Bollywood, at the end of the day, despite the kind of work that I’ve managed to get, is seeped in nepotism. I would say on a conservative estimate, three quarters of Bollywood is second or third generation film industry people. Plus the way the world works is “oh you’re working with X so you must be a good actor,” so you never know whether in LA or Mumbai, where the next big thing comes along.
Now you are creeping back into LA?
It’s funny when I was initially here, I did end up doing a few things here and there which did end up with me getting my SAG credits and eligibility. Then you show up in India and the adulation is great and you are, there I say, one of the 500 people whose opinion counts for something. As an actor though it is limiting and I don’t blame the industry for the kind of films it churns out, the masses need it, so that is all good, but as an actor you want to try out different things, do a little bit more serious work and all that. So that’s primarily the reason I’m trying to spend more time here in LA and seeing what kind of work can be found here. Managed to get an episode and am in the process of getting representation here. The ideal life would be to have one foot here and one there, because for whatever reason I’ve fallen in love with India. I love Mumbai for whatever it is, it’s given me a life, a name, some great friends and I basically just like it out there. But the last three months have been ideal, I’ve been spending a week in India, two weeks here, still have my gigs going on so it’s been a pretty wonderful life that way.
So multiculturism comes easy to you?
That’s right my dad is Punjabi, my mom Tamil, I’ve done a film in the South, called Little John that was in Hindi, English and Tamil and I am proficient in all three of them, the only guy on the set!
Tell us about your music?
My music is available on iTunes, if you want to give it a listen, it’s called Husn. Have a new album in English and Spanish, have done playback for a film by Saurabh Shukla, in which I’ve sung a Nautanki song, even in Shikhar I have a playback song, the Vaga song is mine. I have three different bands in India that I tour with and when these musician play with me they are all called the Ash Trays.