Known for mostly comedy roles, Chunky Pandey saw a major transformation in the recently released ‘Begum Jaan’. In his first attempt at a grey character, the 54-year old actor, who is also well known for his role in ‘Tezaab’ (1988) and in the ‘Housefull’ franchise as ‘Aakhri Pasta’ opens up about this change, his views on Bollywood and his hiatus in the ’90s. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Do you feel the negative role you portrayed in ‘Begum Jaan’ is a turning point in your career?
First of all, when I was offered this role, I couldn’t believe that they offered me a role like this because I have only been doing comedy films. I thought the director had a few drinks and called me up (laughs)! But he was very sure he wanted me because he said that he has been watching me for a very long time and went on saying that even the comedy which I do, I have an evil string in me, which I need to get out. But for that role, you need to lose Chunky Pandey. I asked him how to do that and he said that he needed me to lose my hair and he also wanted me to remove my eyebrows, which I think it was going over the top. He did all of those things to me and got me into this character. Basically, he stripped me down and got the raw out of me. The audience really liked what they saw and there is a great appreciation coming.
You have received a lot of publicity for this evil character in ‘Begum Jaan’. Were you expecting this?
Most people did not recognize me at airports. This is the only way your audience will go with you and I knew it will click. I did not do any prosthestics. All I did was I got my hair out and blackened my teeth. He worked with me and got me into that role. The locations were really gruelling and tough. There were snakes and scorpions. It was raining. He actually transported us back to 1947. He made it look real. The way he dressed me up was also traditional. He said the most evil people you cannot imagine, so just look normal.
You had once mentioned that after delivering the biggest hit of your career in ‘Aankhen’ (1993), you stopped getting lead roles. What went wrong?
I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t like the work coming to me. I was not happy with the roles like brothers and friends. They had no meat to it. They just wanted someone in the film. After ‘Aankhen’, I did ‘Teesra Kaun?’ (1994) with Somi Ali and Rituparna Sengupta. While working with Rituparna, she asked me to come to Bangladesh. In 1995, I went there and gave one of the biggest hits ever. An actor just wants acceptance. I got acceptance there and I was not getting it here. I spent 3-4 years there, really enjoyed myself and I had some great hits. I was enjoying the party till I got married (laughs). I took my wife for honeymoon there. You are known because of Bollywood. People love you because of Bollywood. I think you better come back and do something here. So by the time I came back (after a hiatius of about 5-6 years), a whole generation of people forgot who I was. Luckily, I got a few small but not great roles and then I made a conscious effort that I won’t go for the size of the role. I realised that as actor, you will be remembered for 3-4 scenes in a movie and then you are set. So now I will go for these specialist roles.
Your character in ‘Housefull’, ‘Aakhri Pasta’ received a lot of acclaim. Do you enjoy doing comedy in multi-starrers?
Yes I love it, whether it is ‘Rana Jang Bahadur’ in ‘Apna Sapna Money Money’ or ‘Aakhri Pasta’ ‘Housefull’. Actually, ‘Aakhri Pasta’ is my director’s (Sajid Khan) alter ego. Things which he cannot do in real life, he makes this guy do it on screen. So this is why he is so retarded! He is like a James Bond and he can say anything and then can say, “I am joking!”
You were a huge superstar in Bangladesh when you worked there in the mid 90s. Would you like to do a Bangladeshi film again?
Sure, I would. I am a person who like to explore more and more. The next step would be to look at another language. I just feel that there is no limit to it. I would like to go and check out the Tamil and Telegu films. I would like to be part of different cinema. I am not competing with anyone. I am not in a race. I am enjoying myself and I am in the golden period of my life.
Do you have many friends in Bollywood?
We all know each other as it is a very small community. I have known everyone for the past 20-30 years. It is a big family.
When you watch ‘Tezaab’ these days, personally how much have you evolved as an actor?
Not one bit! I am a very director-dependent actor. I give myself completely to the director. Even I have to do my own stuff, I would have been same in all my films. I start on a clean slate, I listen to him and then I do put a few of my own. But more of less, I go with the director’s flow. My whole scene in ‘Tezaab’, my introdution was part of his childhood. He just showed me all those things which he did, narrated it to me and I just copied it. As actors, we will only be remembered for the work we have done. We will not be remembered as the humans we are. You will remember me as someone from ‘Tezaab’ or ‘Aakhri Pasta’ something. People remember your body of work.
Have you rejected any Bollywood scripts which today you regret?
I did not reject but I remember when Rajiv Rai was making ‘Tridev’ (1989), I had been offered one of the roles. I could not do it because I was doing J. Om Prakash (Hrithik Roshan’s grandfather) film ‘Agnee’ (1988) in Kashmir. The dates clashed and I had to miss out on that film. When it got released, I went to Minerva to see the premiere of the film. When I saw people throwing money on the song “Oye Oye”, Rajiv Rai told me that this song would have been yours. Luckily, I got ‘Vishwatma’ (1992) later. But there are things that happen but there are no regrets in life.
You are 54. What kind of roles excite you these days?
I have been evil, done the comedy part and romance in my young days but I have not done anything emotional yet. I want to try an emotional film but I have a feeling that I will bad at it because I don’t have emotions myself! (Laughs). I may need my wife on the sets to make me cry! Nah I am just joking!
Chunky Pandey has lent his voice as ‘Nazuk Guide’ in the forthcoming animated film ‘Hanumaan Da Damdaar’.