Sporting one of the bright pink Hawaiian-style shirts and turbans he's known for, Gurucharan Singh is all smiles discussing his brief stay in the Northwest suburbs and the Indian sitcom that made him a household name to millions.
The actor, known for his role as Sodhi on "Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah" on Sony Sab TV, is in Palatine visiting former co-star Kari Irwin, a new member of the Daily Herald Media Group's niche sales and marketing team.
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Singh, whose journey to the U.S. began in New York and ends in Los Angeles, so far gives the edge to the Windy City for its friendly people, cleanliness, Willis Tower Ledge and, of course, Chicago-style pizza.
He planned to tour more sights, including a visit to Devon Avenue, and was welcomed Tuesday with a meal from the community kitchen, or "langar," at the Sikh Religious Society Temple in Palatine.
The popular show, which Singh recently left so he could pursue other projects, airs five nights a week. It roughly translates to seeing life "through upside-down eyeglasses."
He appeared in 1,080 episodes as Sodhi, who had a wife of a different religion and a mischievous son. Their fictional family was among several to live in an apartment complex, where hilarity often ensued.
"I moved to Mumbai in 2007 and got the part on the show within six months," Singh said. "It was without a struggle, so I'm very lucky."
Irwin, who's nearly fluent in Hindi, can attest to Singh's good fortune after seeing droves of talented, out-of-work actors. She majored in South Asian religions at Illinois Wesleyan University and went to India on a scholarship in 2009. Finding herself short on funds, she auditioned for the show.
"I played an exaggerated version of myself, which was probably a good thing because I've never studied acting," Irwin said. "It was supposed to be a four-day, two-episode deal, but they ended up extending it to 25 episodes."
Irwin, whose first name means "unripened mango" in Hindi, gets recognized on occasion. She said she loves India for its people, different cultures and the mix of modern life with 1,000-year-old temples.
Singh said he recently left the show because his contract barred him from other ventures. He just appeared on a reality show in which five celebrities lived together in each others' homes. Next up is a Punjabi movie that starts filming this summer.
"It's been my dream to work in movies," Singh said. "I'm very grateful this is all happening."