By P Francis
How else would you describe the journey of a Chinese-born in India, talking and singing in Hindi in talent shows, and even making it to Bollywood?
Meiyang Chang shot to prominence when he dared to take to the stage in Indian Idol 3 on the Sony Entertainment TV Channel and progressed to the top 10 before finishing fifth?
Consequently, Sony Music India signed him to sing on an album Tu To Na Aayi, which had compositions by music directors Leslie Lewis and Amit Trivedi. It was followed by live shows around the world.
Malaysia-born Karam Singh, who lives and works in Melbourne, said: “When I first saw the video clip, I was stunned to see a Chinese man fluently singing a Hindi song. Add to that, at the end, he spoke excellent Hindi to the judges!”
Chang, born on 6 October 1982 in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, is descended from Chinese who arrived in India from China’s Hubei province way back in the 18th century. A qualified dentist, he has followed in the footsteps of his father, K.C. Chang, who settled in the coal mining town in 1977 after moving from Patna. His mother, Gaichen, is a beautician and he is the only child.
His schooling was in Dhanbad, Dehradun, Mussoorie, and Bangalore. Chang speaks English, Hindi, Kannada and some Gujarati, while his hobbies include sketching and reading novels.
Although some may call him a Chindian, it is incorrect because both his parents are Chinese. Should he marry an Indian, then his children would be Chindians – but that is another story.
Since his stage debut, Chang has gone on to co-host India’s Got Talent with actor-model Gautam Rode. Then he created history by being the first ex-contestant of Indian Idol to return and host its fourth season. Chang has also tried his hand at sports presenting – the second season of the Indian Premier League cricket in South Africa.
When Bollywood came knocking on his door, Chang grabbed the opportunity to act in a crime-comedy movie, Badmaa$h Company (Rogue Company), which had Shahid Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Vir Das and himself in the main roles. Produced by Aditya Chopra and released by Yash Raj Films in May, 2010, the film featured Chang as Zing – a carefree college graduate who, with his friends, dreams big and does all the wrong things the right way! It had mixed reviews and did above average at the box office.
Now for all the giggling girls out there, Indian or otherwise, I am sorry to disappoint you but there is someone very close to his heart. Media agency dna reported in May 2010: Chang who has been quite a hit among young girls is attached. He is in love and he is happy to talk about it. Chang is dating singer Monali Thakur who came to the limelight with Indian Idol and later with the Katrina Kaif song Zara zara touch me from Race. “We met at one function and it wasn’t like instant spark. But gradually, we fell in love with each other. We are very happy together,” Chang said.
That is not all, call him Twinkle Toes if you wish, Chang danced his way to the top in the Indian equivalent of Dancing WithThe Stars – Jhalak Dikhla Jaa Season 4, the reality TV dance show for celebrities. In the process, he eclipsed the consistent TV actor Sushant Singh Rajput and Czech-born model-actress Yana Gupta, who dazzled with her fluid and graceful performances.
Chang, who shared the cash prize of Rs 50 lakhs (more than US$80,000) with Marischa Fernandes, his choreographer and dance partner, told The Times of India after the victory: “My girlfriend singer Monali Thakur wants me to spend the prize money on her. She wants me to buy her jewellery and other stuff. But seriously, I don’t mind. Monali has been my anchor and support. When I was drifting away from singing, she pulled me back on the right track.” He described himself as a Jack of all trades. “I started in showbiz late. I was a dentist. I became a singer at 24 and was noticed on Indian Idol. Now I am a dancer too. When I remember my two left feet at the beginning of Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, I still shudder. I can’t believe I made it all the way to the top.”
Chang, unsure of his next step in showbiz, also told the newspaper: “I’m at an age when I want to try everything. Is that good or bad? I don’t know. All I know is that I am here to push my own limits. As far as my acting is concerned, I’m limited by my looks. When I came in, I was told I could be another Danny Denzongpa. I’m still waiting for that to happen.”
His proud mother thanked all those from Dhanbad who voted for him. She told Calcutta’s The Telegraph, who headlined him the ‘prince of dance’: “Meiyang had made a mark nationally as a singer. He acted in a hit Bollywood film and held his own with Shahid Kapur and Anushka Sharma, anchored for Indian Idol 4 and AIIFA awards in Sri Lanka, and now he proved himself in dance. As parents, every achievement is important.”
Now, the next time you see a Chinese man at a music shop in Serangoon Road, do not assume from the packaging that he is not a Made-In-India product who loves his hot curries and yoghurts. Remember, these days, what you see is not always what you get!
P. Francis is an English tutor in Melbourne, who has more than 20 years’ journalism experience with newspapers, books and magazines in Singapore and Australia.
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