Dr. Chandra was affiliated with the University of Illinois, Urbana and the University of Chicago (film). His inspirations are John von Neumann and Alan Turing. Chandra invented the HAL 9000 supercomputer. He had spent much of his time trying to figure out why HAL malfunctioned. After finding out that Heywood Floyd has chosen him to participate in the Soviet/American joint expedition to Jupiter, Chandra, in a pre-mission experiment, disconnected some of the circuits of HAL's twin, the SAL 9000, in a manner similar to the way HAL was disconnected, to get a better idea of what happened to HAL, and then reconnected SAL's circuits to see what effects HAL would likely experience once he is revived. Before they begin the experiment, SAL asks Chandra a question: "Will I dream?" Chandra confidently replies that all intelligent beings dream, and then adds "Perhaps you will dream of HAL, just as I often do."
Chandra went on the mission along with two other Americans, Walter Curnow and Heywood Floyd, joining the crew of the Soviet space vessel Leonov, commanded by Soviet Air Force Captain Tanya Kirbuk on their mission to Jupiter. The three (Chandra, Floyd and Curnow) were placed in hibernation until arriving at their destination.
After Curnow and Maxim Brajlovsky stabilize Discovery, Chandra successfully reactivated HAL and, after methodical examination, discovered the reason for HAL's malfunction: HAL became paranoid by orders that created a major inner conflict. The National Security Council had given HAL full knowledge of Discovery's true objective of the Jupiter mission (to more closely examine the monolith near Jupiter), and then ordered HAL to keep it secret from Bowman and Poole; this was in direct conflict with the basic purpose of HAL's design, in that he was to process and provide accurate information without concealment or distortion.
This contradiction created a "H-Moebius loop", reducing HAL to paranoia. Chandra deduced that HAL made an ad hoc decision to kill the crew, thereby allowing him to obey both his hardwired instructions to report data truthfully and in full, and his orders to keep the monolith a secret. In essence: if the crew were dead, he would no longer have to keep the information secret. As Floyd's signature was on the NSC orders (Floyd was NCA chairman at the time), Chandra blamed him for HAL's malfunction, but Floyd angrily denied all knowledge of the orders. Chandra summed up the whole situation saying that, "HAL was told to lie... by people who find it very easy to lie; HAL doesn't know how, so he couldn't function. He became paranoid".
The crew of the Leonov was forced to begin their return to Earth weeks before their launch window to avoid destruction from the monoliths creating a new star from Jupiter. Floyd suggested that Leonov use Discovery as a booster rocket for the escape launch, using all of the remaining fuel in Discovery leaving it behind. Chandra was instructed to keep HAL occupied and to prevent him from stopping the countdown; when Chandra finally told HAL the truth behind Leonov's early departure, HAL understood and continued with the countdown. Chandra offered to stay with HAL on board Discovery, but HAL declined saying, "It is better for the mission if you leave." Before exchanging their final goodbyes, HAL echoes SAL's question to Chandra: "Will I dream?", to which Chandra tearfully replies, "I don't know."
After the Leonov successfully made their escape, Chandra, Floyd and Curnow were placed back into hibernation.
2010: Odyssey Two
In the novel 2010: Odyssey Two, Chandra's full name is Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai, and is from India. Due to the casting in the 1984 movie, it is not clear whether Chandra is still meant to be Indian. His full name, as given above, was also never mentioned and he was only ever called Dr. Chandra. In the film, Bob Balaban spoke with his normal American accent and had no accouterments that suggest an Indian heritage. (British actor Ben Kingsley, who is of Indian blood, was sought unsuccessfully for the role.)
2061: Odyssey Three
In 2061: Odyssey Three, it was revealed that Chandra had died in hibernation before Leonov made it back to Earth. No obvious cause of death could be found, though his crewmates speculated that "he couldn't live without HAL", despite his intention to build another 9000 computer when he returned to Earth.