Daya Shankar Pandey is an Indian film and television actor. He is known for his roles in the Bollywood films Lagaan (2001), Gangaajal (2003), Swades (2004) and Raajneeti (2010). He is widely recognised for playing the role of Inspector Chalu Pandey in the popular TV show Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah. He is also known for portraying the protagonist Shani Dev in Imagine TV’s Mahima Shanidev Ki (2008).
Daya Shankar Pandey was born on Friday, 19 November 1965 (age 58 years; as of 2023) in Mumbai. His zodiac sign is Scorpio.
Daya’s father, Vishwanath Nath Pandey, moved from Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai in 1942. In the beginning, Vishwanath used to work in a dairy farm for eight rupees a month. Save four rupees a month, he later opened his own stable in Dahisar. Daya had humble beginnings growing up in Dahisar, Mumbai, where his father had a stable. As a kid, he used to sleep in the stable. Later, his parents went back to their native village, while Daya started living with his uncle and aunt in Mumbai. The stable was then run by Daya Shankar’s uncle Amarnath Pandey. He studied in a convent school in Borivali, Mumbai. Daya had no interest in running stables. Around 1980, his family sold the stable. In ninth grade, he first developed an interest in cinema and the entertainment industry. He would watch films of Rajesh Khanna, Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, and Amitabh Bachchan at the neighbour’s house on the weekends as his parents wouldn’t allow him to go to the theatres. He would also mimic them. In an interview, he talked about what inspired him to become an actor, and said,
Every Sunday, Doordarshan used to telecast movies at 6 pm. I have seen so many films of Rajesh Khanna, Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan. Though I did not have the sense of acting then, I still believed that was something I could do. Every actor begins by copying others. I used to copy Rajesh Khanna. That was a part of the initial learning process.”
By the time he passed Class 10, he had decided that he wanted to become an actor. He always wanted to join the National School of Drama (NSD), but fate had other plans. In 1989, Pandey graduated from Shri Chinai College Of Commerce & Economics. Amar Ujala Mumbai Theatre Guide During his college, he starred in various plays Bheekhmange and Bandhuvabhamashah, which earned him critical acclaim. He would also act in Hindi, Gujarati, English and even Marathi plays. He participated and won prizes and medals in various competitions. In an interview, he recalled an embarrassing moment from his college days, and said,
I was a hero in college as I was doing a lot many plays and bringing back medals and awards. Noticing my talent a director forced me to do an English play. I had only a five-line dialogue in this play but I was very bad even with this. It so happened that I was to sit on one end of the stage and wait for my cue to say those five lines. And I fell asleep on stage. As a result, I missed my lines and gave the wrong cue to my co-actor who got so confused that we messed it up totally.”
Many thought he studied at NSD as he would often hang out with numerous NSD actors. In those days, he also made an acquaintance of Irrfan Khan, who inspired him to become an actor. During those days, Indian film director Chandraprakash Dwivedi used to direct plays at Daya’s college. Although Daya came from Uttar Pradesh, his Hindi pronunciation was not good at that time. It was while working with Chandraprakash Dwivedi that his pronunciation improved. In an interview, he revealed that he started to think of himself as Amitabh Bachchan in college. He got married while he was still struggling to make his name in the industry. He said that his wife had sacrificed a lot for him. While he was facing difficulties in the showbiz, his wife took care of his parents back in the village.
Height (approx.): 5′ 9″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Family & Ethnicity
Parents & Siblings
Daya’s father, Vishwanath Nath Pandey, used to own a stable in Dahisar. His mother’s name is Vidyawati.
Wife & Children
His wife hails from Dhaukalganj in Varanasi. His daughter got married in 2021.
After graduating in 1989, he worked under theatre directors Mahendra Joshi and Satyadev Dubey. Joshi lived close to Daya’s house. Daya was afraid of approaching him as he had heard that Joshi was a very strict teacher. Daya was equally scared of Dubey and often went to watch his rehearsals but from afar. One day, Daya met Joshi in the train, gathered up the courage, and went up to him. Daya requested Joshi to take him under his wing. Joshi said he was doing a Gujarati play called Mojila Manilal but didn’t have any role for Daya. Nonetheless, Joshi asked Daya to assist him with backstage work. Daya started by running errands like getting everyone tea. While doing so, he would observe Joshi and learn his craft. It was a depressing phase for Daya as he had graduated from college but didn’t have any work. The backstage work kept him busy. Daya was in charge of all Joshi’s plays at the Prithvi Festival – Mojila Manilal, Khelaiya, and Tokhar in Gujarati and Ekshuff in Hindi. Sharing an interesting anecdote from his struggling days, Daya said that he used to practise for the role of Lalji in Ekshuff with Shafi Inamdar. As everyone liked his performance, he was cast in the role. However, Feroz Khan, who had done this role earlier, returned from London and asked Joshi if he could do the play. Joshi told him that Daya had rehearsed for the play, but Feroz asked Daya if he would let him do just two shows and then take over. Daya agreed and Feroz Khan took his role. Feroz Khan started gaining appreciation for the role, and he kept doing shows one after another. Misfortunately, Daya lost the opportunity and ended up playing a horse in the play. Recalling the same, he said,
It was my misfortune that though I had rehearsed for this role I ended up playing one of the horses in the play. I couldn’t argue as I was a struggler and my financial condition was very bad so I continued playing the horse. I was required to wear 1.5-kilo heavy iron cast legs of the horse and a mask weighing 500 gms throughout the play. This was how I started my stint in commercial theatre.”
Daya wasn’t getting ahead in his acting career, so he decided to become an assistant to director Gyan Sahay. He thought that this way he could remain associated with the industry. Later, he starred in various theatrical productions Mareez, Popkorn With Parsai, and Suitable Bride.
While being associated with Gyan Sahay, Daya secured his first acting assignment in 1991 in the TV show Lene Ke Dene, which aired on Doordarshan. It was a long scene, and he got to act with actor Ravi Baswani. While Baswani was the lead, Daya played the supporting role of a postman who goes to deliver a letter to Baswani. In the scene, Baswani makes the postman sit under that tree and asks him to read it out for him. Talking about the same, in an interview, he said,
I first faced the camera in 1991 at Filmistan Studios. Back then there wasn’t much work for actors. Cinema and Doordarshan were the only two mediums. I was a struggling actor, who also assisted TV director-cameraman Gyan Sahay in a DD show called Lene Ke Dene….Once a role came up and I gathered strength to approach Gyan Sahay. There was no trend of audition then. That was the time when a director had belief and confidence in the actor. Sahay ji knew I was into acting too. That’s how I got selected. I couldn’t sleep one night before and after the shoot. I remember when this episode was to be telecast, I called everyone in my village to watch it. It came at 8 am. It was a different kind of happiness of coming on the screen.”
Later, he played small roles in various TV shows like Daal Mein Kuch Kaala Hai and DD National’s Tehkikaat (1994). In 1997, he played the roles of Hotel Union Leader in Episode 43 and Robert in Episode 45 of the comedy TV show Ghar Jamai. In 1998, he appeared in Zee TV’s horror series Woh as Chandu Shiva’s friend, SET’s Saaya as Assistant Editor Pandey, and SET’s Family No.1 as Pandey. Thereafter, he made small appearances in various TV shows like Yeh Duniya Hai Rangeen (1999) as Security Guard Yadav, Shubh Mangal Savadhan (2002), and Sahara One’s Kituu Sabb Jaantii Hai (2007) as Jogi. In 2008, he became a household name when he portrayed the lead role of Shanidev in the Hindu mythological TV series Mahima Shani Dev Ki on Imagine TV. Daya was nominated for Best Actor in a Drama Series at the Producers Guild Film Awards for the Mahima Shanidev Ki in 2012.
Since 2010, Daya has been playing the recurring role of Inspector Chalu Pandey in Sony SAB’s longest-running TV show Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah. He is also the creative consultant for the show. In 2018, he was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role Award at the Indian Television Academy Awards for his role in Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah.
From 2013 to 2014, he played the recurring role of Surjeet Singh in StarPlus’ soap opera Ek Veer Ki Ardaas…Veera. In 2015, he played the negative role of Bilasi Poddar, Vibhor’s uncle, in the soap opera Badii Devrani on &TV. He was nominated for Indian Telly Award for Best Actor in a Negative Role for his role in Badii Devrani.
Later, he appeared on various TV shows like Devon Ke Dev…Mahadev (2014), Suryaputra Karn (2015), and Wagle Ki Duniya – Nayi Peedhi Naye Kissey (2022). In 2017, he portrayed the titular in the teleplay Bhamashah, a legendary philanthropist, warrior and advisor to Maharana Pratap. The financial support provided by him allowed Maharana Pratap to restore his army and reclaim much of his lost territory.
In 2022, he started playing the role of ShyamLal Maurya in the slice-of-life comedy TV series Sab Satrangi on Sony SAB. In 2023, he started playing the role of narrator Pandit Radheshyam in Tulsidham Ke Laddu Gopal on Shemaroo TV.
Daya Shankar Pandey made his Bollywood debut with the thriller film Pehla Nasha (1993).
He had a small role in the film alongside Paresh Rawal. However, in the final edit, all his scenes were cut. While talking about his first break, in an interview, he said,
I got my first break in cinema in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s film ‘Pehla Nasha’. Ashutosh Gowarikar and we often used to meet at Ravi Vaswani’s house. He gave me a small role in the film ‘Pehla Nasha’ so I was very happy that I had a scene with Paresh Rawal. But when I went to watch the film in the theater after its release, I saw that all my scenes had been cut. Even in the scene with Paresh Rawal, only my dialogue could be heard. I felt very sad.”
Then, he got the opportunity to work in Sai Paranjpye’s romantic film Papeeha (1993) and Ashutosh Gowarikar’s film Baazi (1995), which starred Aamir Khan in the lead role. Daya’s work in Baazi was immensely appreciated by Aamir due to which Daya was cast in another Aamir Khan-starrer film Ghulam (1998). Aamir Khan had also talked to director Ram Gopal Varma to give Daya’s name for the role of Pakya in the film Rangeela (1995). Although Daya was finalised for the role initially, he was soon replaced. In an interview, while talking about the disappointing turn of events, he said,
I thought who would interrupt Aamir Khan? I was very happy in those days that my struggle was over. But, in the film industry, nothing is decided until the film is released. Same thing happened with me also. Even after everything was finalized, I did not get that role.”
He played the role of a rapist in the action film The Gambler (1995).
In 2001, he came into the limelight with the epic musical sports drama film Lagaan in which he played the role of Goli (seamer), the man with the largest piece of land.
After playing minuscule roles like a taxi driver in Aankhen (2002), a school teacher in Makdee (2002), and Hari in Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost (2003), Daya played Sub-Inspector Mangni Ram in the action crime drama film Gangaajal (2003).
He was appreciated for his role of Mela Ram in Swades (2004) and Daya Shankar in Apaharan (2005).
In 2004, he starred in an Indo-American co-production film American Daylight in which he played the role of Ashok.
In 2019, he played the role of Hari Ram Pandey in Manish Vatssalya’s Hindi crime film Scotland. The award-winning Indo-UK film found a place among the Oscar contenders of 2020 in the Best Feature Film category. The film is about a father frustrated with the failure of the legal system to bring justice to his daughter, a victim of sexual assault. As the story unfolds, he transforms into a relentless avenger determined to take matters into his own hands.
Other prominent films under his belt include Ek Ajnabee (2005), Welcome to Sajjanpur (2008), Raajneeti (2010), Chakravyuh (2012), Haseena Parkar (2017), Haseen Dillruba (2021), and Satyameva Jayate 2 (2021). In 2024, he appeared in the biographical film Main Atal Hoon in which he portrayed the role of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, an Indian politician who believed in integral humanism. He led the political party Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), which later became the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In 2017, he played the role of Tabrez Ansari in the Bhojpuri action-romance-drama film Satya.
In 2018, he appeared in the Gujarati adventure drama film Reva: A Journey Within in which he played the role of Gandu Fakir.
In 2018, he appeared in the Nepali film Kadke Kamal Ke.
In 2018, he made his digital debut playing the role of Mahavir in Rangbaaz, which streamed on ZEE5.
In 2020, he played the role of Saheb Singh in Raktanchal on MX Player. In 2022, he played the role of Arjun’s father in the Tamil anthology series Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadhaa and Abhay’s father in the Hindi romance-drama web series Faadu.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- Gujarati Iconic Film Fare Award (2018) for Actor in a Negative Role (Male)
- Ravi Baswani once suggested Daya to opt for “Kali Pandey” as his screen name. He told Daya that the name would make him popular. However, Daya didn’t do it. The Indian Express
- Daya Shankar Pandey considers Amitabh Bachchan his Guru. Once, on the occasion of Teachers’ Day, Pandey recalled how Big B gave him acting lessons while working together in the film Ek Ajnabee (2005). During the media conversation, Daya revealed that Amitabh Bachchan enacted Pandey’s scene to make him understand it better as he was nervous.
- In an interview, Daya revealed that he was instructed to dance with Aamir Khan on the song Mitwa in Lagaan (2001). However, he refused to follow its choreography as the song gave him cold feet. He thought that he was a pathetic dancer and that 20 years down the line people were going to make fun of his dance with Aamir. In an interview, he talked about the same and said,
The plan was that Aamir and I will dance. I even rehearsed with choreographer Ganesh Hegde for 4-5 days. But both of us banged our heads. I did try, but I noticed in the rehearsals that I was pathetic. I just couldn’t manage it. Then I went to Aamir and Ashutosh with folded hands requested them to not make me dance. I knew 20 years down the line, people will make fun seeing me dance with Aamir. Just to save my respect, I slowly retracted.”
- In an interview, Daya said that after he got interested in acting, he asked his father if maybe their ancestors had a thing towards performing arts. Daya believed that maybe acting was in his blood. However, Daya’s father clarified that there was no such family member in his knowledge. Daya’s father mentioned that nobody in their family has ever been involved in Ramleela or any theatrical performance. Despite that, Daya’s father was always supportive of his decision and never forbade him from acting.
- The creative producer of Mahima Shani Dev Ki, Shiv Sagar, took the birth details of Daya to read his horoscope before casting him in the show. Reading his horoscope, Shiv Sagar released that Saturn (i.e. Shani) was the lord of his zodiac; hence, he was perfect for the role.
- Once Daya revealed that securing a role in Lagaan wasn’t easy. During those days, Daya was in touch with the film director Ashutosh Gowarikar, but when he asked for a role in the film, Gowarikar refused. Consequently, Daya asked Aamir Khan to intervene and help him. He talked about the same in an interview, and said,
I used to meet Ashutosh Gowarikar continuously. In those days, preparations for the film ‘Lagaan’ were going on. When I asked for a role from Ashutosh Gowarikar, he said that there is no role in the film suitable for me. So I called Aamir Khan directly. I just said that if I don’t get work even in a film based on the backdrop of Uttar Pradesh, will I get work in Yash Chopra and Karan Johar’s films set in Switzerland? Aamir Khan laughed a lot after hearing this. Then one day his call came. I still remember that date. On December 26, 1999, I was eating food. Aamir called and said come to office tomorrow morning and meet Kiran (Rao).”
- In an interview, Daya talked about how he secured a role in Swades (2004) and said that one night he received a call from the film’s director Ashutosh Gowariker who asked if he knew how to drive a moped. Gowariker said that there was a scene in the film in which Daya had to drive a two-wheeler, Bajaj M50, with Shah Rukh Khan and Rajesh Vivek sitting at the back. Although Daya didn’t know how to properly drive the two-wheeler, he went for the audition. He was scared that if he told the truth, he would lose the opportunity to star in the film. During the audition, Shah Rukh Khan hopped on behind Daya for a ride. When Daya put the two-wheeler in first gear and released the clutch, the moped jumped into the air and Shahrukh fell to the ground. At that moment, Daya’s face turned pale in fear, but Shahrukh took the situation humorously. Shahrukh smiled, extended his hand towards Daya, and softly said,
I knew you didn’t know how to ride a bike properly. But, now only you will do this scene..!”