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Birthday special: Ready for an evil Chunky Pandey?

The actor, who turns 54 today (26 September), promises to return in an evil avatar in his upcoming projects.

Mayur Lookhar

The new millennium has seen Chunky Pandey emerge as the joker in the pack. And that has largely to do with his 'I'm a joking' line from the Housefull films. Those familiar with the Housefull franchise will know about Pandey's sheepish yet humorous character, Aakhri Pasta.

It's not often that you find actors whose real image appears to be no different from the their reel one. Pandey is a joker in every sense of the term, be it on or off screen. When he shaved his head and grew a grey beard, fans wondered if this was another joke by the funnyman. Soon Pandey’s new look was being compared to that of popular American television show protagonist Walter White from Breaking Bad.

“This look is for a foreign webseries, details of which I can’t reveal now. The only condition for me to do the film was that the director said I have to lose my identity. When I asked him what my identity was, he said, 'your lovely locks', said Pandey grimly. "I said shit. I cried on hearing this. When the dreaded moment arrived [to shave my head] I cried for 48 hours."

Contrary to earlier reports, this look is not for the Vidya Balan-starrer Begum Jaan.

“I play a bad man in the webseries. My look, character in Begum Jaan is much more deadly, much more evil. In fact, he is pure evil. Almost like Lucifer,” said Pandey.

Those familiar with Pandey’s career graph will remember how the actor had vanished for a few years in the mid-1990s. With his career in Indian cinema going nowhere, Pandey headed east, finding his footing in Bangladeshi cinema. 

“All the glory that I had lost in Bollywood, I got there [in Bangladesh]. I was a superstar there,” he confirmed. Save for a couple, however, Pandey could not recollect the six films he did in Bangladeshi cinema.

What he remembers though is how on the first day, a member of the support staff asked him what he would have, and Pandey replied 'tea/coffee'. The actor was left amused when the staffer served him tea mixed with coffee.

Recalling another interesting anecdote, Pandey spoke of how he was once asked to lift a heroine weighing 100 kg. “Bangladesh is a very different country. The people are really warm and welcoming. Those two years were like a new lease of life. I didn’t migrate to Bangladesh, but stayed in hotels. Even back then, they had access to Indian TV shows — first Zee and later Star. I truly cherish my time in Bangladesh,” he said.

While those were good times, the recent past in Bangladesh has been scary with bloggers, writers and some Hindu-Bengali scholars being killed by extremists. Expressing concern over these killings, Pandey said, “I have heard and read about these tragic killings. I’ve even spoken to friends there. As a nation, Bangladesh is very enterprising, they were very happy people. It is depressing to hear of such extremism.”

Coming back to Hindi cinema, Pandey is among the rare few who are friendly with both Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan. Ironically, it was the rise of these stars that spelled bad news for actors like him in the 1990s.

Pandey, though, refused to pin the blame on anyone. “Look, such a thought never crept into my mind. You can’t blame anyone for your failures. Govinda arrived in 1986, I followed in 1987, then came Aamir Khan in 1988, followed by Shah Rukh. Akshay and Ajay Devgn arrived in the early 1990s. So, you see that those were times where a new star was born every year. We haven’t seen such a phenomenon again in the industry. As an actor, you need to keep evolving. There is no point in mimicking someone else,” he said.

Finally, we asked the actor about a film called Blondie, that was based on Shashi Tharoor’s book Show Business. Blondie was tipped to be screened at the Cannes film festival, but it never saw the light of day.

“Yes, we had shot that film. It was supposed to go to Cannes. I’d even met Shashi Tharoor, who had agreed to give the rights. However, something went wrong between the producer and the publishers. So, that film never took off.  No one saw that film, not even me,” Pandey said with a giggle. 

Here's wishing Pandey a very happy birthday. And we're 'not a joking'.