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Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi’s Jason Tham shares remarkable tale of his grandparents

Separated from his family by World War II, Tham Sau-kwun lived in India until his death in 1969. His kin eventually found his original family in China a decade ago.

Jason Tham

Mayur Lookhar

Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016) travelled from Punjab to Lahore. The film's sequel, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi (2018), saw Happy, Bagga and company land up in Shanghai.

With the film set in China, it was natural to have Chinese characters. Interestingly, the two most prominent Chinese characters in the film spoke fluent Hindi. Actor Denzil Smith played Adam Chow while Jason Tham essayed the role of  his henchman Chang.

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Jason Tham is fluent in Hindi, but the USA-born, Delhi-raised Overseas Citizen of India has Chinese ancestry. In an exclusive interview with Cinestaan.com, Tham spoke of the remarkable journey his grandfather Tham Sau-kwun made from China to India and shared the reasons he decided to stay back.

In the days of the British Raj, when Calcutta was the capital of India (1771-1911), the British imperialists opened trade routes from China to Bengal. Chinese people came in as traders and labourers. “My ancestors hailed from China. My parents were born in India. We are pure Chinese blood,” Tham said.

Tham Sau-kwun

“My grandfather was in the harbour [import-export] buisness," he said. "Kolkata was the capital, the hub of trade in India. Back then, people travelled on ships. My grandfather Tham Sau-kwun got stuck in Kolkata because of World War II (1939-1945). All transport and communication was disrupted. No one was allowed to go out of India, and and no one could come in.”

This meant Tham Sau-kwun was stranded in Bengal without any means of communicating with his wife and family back in China. When attempts to get in touch with them yielded no response, he feared the worst.

“He tried sending communication to China through telegraph, but there was never any response," Tham said. "He thought his family was gone, and they thought the same about him. He started life afresh in Calcutta and married my grandmother Matham Sein [also from China]. They had 11 kids."

Thus, Tham Sau-kwun began a new life in India and continued living here until his death in 1969. Destiny, though, had a surprise in store for his family in India. Ten years ago, Jason's father, Dominic Jason Tham, and his brothers learnt that their stepmother Chai Wan-tai and her family was alive in Hong Kong.

Chai Wan-tai 

"Ten years ago, my father and his brother came to know that that one such family still exists in Hong Kong. They found out that my step-grandmother was alive. They travelled to Hong Kong to meet her. She had forgotten most things, but could remember her husband, my grandfather, and her older son. She passed away some 5-6 months back at the age of 113. This is an emotional story,” the actor said. 

Jason's father Dominic, too, had to struggle to build his career. “My father was into the catering business," the actor said. "He started working in restaurants. Slowly, he rose to the rank of manager and then general manager."

Jason Tham believes his family's story is so interesting that a film could be made on it one day. "We can have a whole film on the family," he laughed, adding cheekily, "and someday there will be a film on me, having worked in this one film.”