In 1972, soon after Bangladesh obtained freedom, the government of the country consciously imposed a ban on all Hindi films to protect their local industry. Soon, cinema halls began shutting and people lost interest in movies. Those who wanted Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan to entertain them began sticking to their TV sets.
But now, almost four decades later, the ban on Hindi film entertainment has finally been lifted. And those who know even a little of Bangladesh’s film industry would know the one name synonymous with stardom there — Chunky Pandey.
Pandey, who moved to Bangladesh to resurrect his acting career in the mid 1990s, still doesn’t know how he became a phenomenon. “I just happened to do this one film called Shami Keno Asha Me, and overnight, it became a rage,” says the actor, who was also involved in film distribution in Bangladesh. “I did quite a few films there; the names also don’t come to me now (laughs). It was weird because I didn’t speak the language. After doing one film in Bengali, I was like ‘I’m talking in Hindi, you dub my voice or I’m out of here!’ That’s why my films were dubbed.” Having invested about seven years in Bangladeshi cinema, Pandey returned to Bollywood in the mid-2000s and made a comeback with films like Apna Sapna Money Money (2006) with Riteish Deshmukh and Shreyas Talpade. “I made a conscious decision to move out of that industry and come back to Bollywood. I felt I had stayed away for too long,” says the actor, whose film Housefull released this Friday. “After all, Bollywood is where I belong. I wanted to be back.”
So what’s changed for the actor, now that his old stomping ground will be exposed to more actors from India?
“Well, I don’t know how long I’ll still be known as a superstar in Bangladesh, now that all Bollywood films are going to land up there. But I have distribution lines there, so I may go back to visit, but I have no plans to do movies there anymore. I remember when I got married and took my wife there, she saw everything, and said, ‘Either you stay here or I stay here’.”
But he’s more than happy about the ban being lifted and feels that the decision made in 1973 for was a good reason.
“Bollywood cinema is so powerful, that whenever it branches out to regional areas, it tends to greatly affect the local film industry. It’s like what Hollywood sometimes does in India. Movies like Avatar and 2012 end up making more money in India than Bollywood films. So it did make sense for them to ban Bollywood in a way.
“But now it’s great that we can reach out to those audiences. These neighbouring countries are huge territories for our films and the craze over there is far more than you can imagine. It’s going to be a huge boon for everyone.”