Ashish Vidyarthi, actor, who has worked in nearly 80 films in different languages, has a busy schedule and is unable to visit Chirakkuni, a village in Dharmadom panchayat near Thalassery, as often as he would like to.
But Ashish visits Challayil House, the ancestral home of his father, Govind Vidyarthi, whenever he is able to take time off his hectic schedule. For, the visits help him remain connected to his roots.
Ashish Vidyarthi, who established himself as an actor in the Mumbai film industry with his debut in ‘Drohkaal,’ has been donning mostly negative roles. His silver screen image, however, is a far cry from his affable real life persona.
The 42-year-old alumnus of the National School of Drama, on his recent visit to Chirakkuni was busy organising a ceremony in connection with the ‘Vidyarthi Samman,’ an award instituted in the name of his father to honour the “unknown Indians” at Chirakkuni.
This was no make-believe initiative. Four persons — a mother, a beedi worker, a circus artiste and a teacher — were honoured at Chirakkuni on Saturday. Ashish came with his Bengali mother, Reba Vidyarthi, family and friends to witness the award ceremony.
“As an actor, I always move from one project to another, from one location to another and don’t find time to say thanks to autorickshaw drivers, servants or fish vendors,” he told The Hindu in a chat. The award that he conceived was a way of expressing his gratitude to the “extraordinary ordinary people.”
Ashish chose to speak little about his acting career, his new roles and projects.
At Challayil House, where his father was born in 1912, Ashish was more at home with the simplicity of life in a village.
“There was something about my father that endeared him to all he came in touch with,” he said. He spoke passionately about his father who left Chirakkuni in the 1930s and travelled across the country to learn more about spirituality, politics and arts.
Ashish got his surname from his father T.K. Govindan, who took on the surname ‘Vidyarthi’ as a tribute to freedom fighter Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi who died in a lathi-charge during the British rule.
Govind Vidyarthi joined the national movement and later the Communist movement. Ashish recalls his father’s role in the formation of the Indian People’s Theatre Association. After Independence, his father joined the Sangeet Natak Akademi. He died last year.
“I have begun shooting my first film at Chirakkuni; it is a documentary,” he said. Ashish said he has learned to face challenges.