Mehmanji, that’s how a son-in-law is addressed in Bihar. But the jamai raja Raj Singh Chaudhary plays in a film by the same name has been forced into a marriage against his wishes.
“The guy, whose story it is (his identity can’t be revealed as the case is still in court) and who was on the sets for 10 days, had cleared his IAS written exams and was waiting for the final interview. In the interim, he decided to visit home and was abducted by his soon-to-be in-laws.
“They tortured him for a fortnight before forcibly pouring liquor down his throat. While in an alcoholic stupor, he was married off. Then, because he threatened to escape, kept under lock and keep in a saural, having to share a room with an equally reluctant bride,” narrates Chaudhary.
Chaudhary, son of a tea garden owner in Darjeeling is married to a girl of his choice. And admits that his wife, their friends and even those who’ve seen the film had festival abroad usually react with, “Can this really happen?”
The actor insists that such cases are not uncommon in a state where dowry demands are outrageously high, putting eligible bachelors who are qualified engineers, doctors and IAS officers out of reach. “Surprisingly, many such marriages have worked after the abducted grooms have surrendered to the inevitable,” says Chaudhary, adding that at one point, during the shoot, even he was wondering why this guy didn’t give in. “It’s weird this feeling of laachari.. frustrated helplessness.. when it gets harder and harder to fight your tormentors everyday,” he points out.
Chaudhary refuses to reveal how the story ends, telling you it’ll be in the theatres as soon as the multiplex impasse ends. He was finalised as the lead just three days before it went on the sets after the original actor dropped out.
Director Imtiaz Ali who had seen rushes of Gulaal recommended Dileep Singh to his director friend, Sushil Rajpal, and Chaudhary was rushed to the interiors of Bihar where, for the most part of the next month, he was locked up in a school hostel or cooped up in a pre-British bungalow which was supposed to be haunted by an English lady.
“Thank God I never met her but a barren tree in the garden gave me the creeps every time I passed it,” he shivers, adding that four days into the shoot he broke his hand and writhed in pain, both on screen and off it, through the making of Mehmanji.
Gulaal got the software engineer-turned model-turned-actor recognition from the film fraternity even if it didn’t get him mobbed.
Now, he has his fingers crossed for Mehmanji, Waiting Room, a psychological thriller, and Meridian Lines, a karmic love story with Soha Ali Khan.