Youthful, buoyant and irreverent - that is what Chunky Pandey is. An interviewer's delight, he shoots from the hip, has a great sense of humour and is interesting with a capital I. Little wonder then that his travels are as interesting as he is. Even going to supposedly staid places, he manages to pack in a punch, more because of his general attitude towards life and everything that is encapsulated within that. Having acted in more than 55 films over twenty years, he has done some memorable cameos. His role as Munna in Tezaab is best remembered and so are his roles in films like Aankhen, Khatron Ke Khiladi, Zakham and in recent films like Ready and Rascals. His genre has definitely been comedy though few know that he has had a brief innings in Bangladeshi cinema too. Excerpts from an interview, where he does what he knows best - be his usual witty uncensored self.
Q: Which is the last holiday you took and what were the highlights of the trip?
It was last summer with my wife and daughters. I was shooting for Housefull in London. Once the shooting schedule was done, we took off for our holiday to the US. We first went to Toronto for the IIFA awards and then to Las Vegas, Chicago and other places. Also we celebrated my wife's birthday in New York.
Q: When on vacation what do you like to do?
I am a great one for just taking it easy and lazing around. No hectic sightseeing and running from one place to another as if there is no tomorrow. I do check out the regular tourist places, head out to lesser known spots but I prefer more fun activity. Typically, I am over active on vacations but I like to do my own thing. I am a swimmer and given a chance, I would love to swim every day and when I do not get a chance to do so, since not all places would have a pool I have a lot of unspent energy. So I am always on my feet, doing something or the other. I wake up very early, earlier then the others who are with me. I become over enthusiastic. I want to do everything in just one day, even if I am there for like ten days.
Q: What has been the most bizarre thing that you have eaten when experimenting with your food in a foreign location?
I am an extremely adventurous eater and an avid lover of spicy food. I have eaten grasshoppers in Thailand, snails in France, ostrich in Australia, crocodile in South Africa and Polar Bear meat in Moscow. The most bizarre was when I was in some foreign locale and in a Chinese restaurant, I asked for chicken meat and the lady got me snake meat instead. When I told her that I wanted chicken meat she said, "Sir same same! same same!" But I have remained undeterred and have even eaten dogs, zebras, girrafes and many more. I believe you must try everything in life.
Q: Which destination for you has the highest repeat value?
Undoubtedly Goa! Perhaps, in my past life I must have been a Goan. I think it is a beautiful place and you can go there any time of the year and it has a bit of something for everybody.
Q: Which place according to you is highly over rated?
Moscow! The rates there are very high. (Laughs). Actually its a beautiful place with beautiful people and how I wish I had been there as a bachelor.
Q: How do you plan your holiday?
I like to do my own planning. Once I have discussed the location with my wife, I plan the rest by myself. I am a good planner. I never book online hotels. I had done it once and the hotel looked so beautiful online but in reality it was like a prison cell. I would much rather go through a trusted travel agent for bookings and book a hotel that is recommended by friends, If I haven't been to that place already. Word of mouth works well and we do have enough friends and family who are into travelling to be able to give us a first hand account of what to do and what not to do.
Q: Most embarrassing travel moment
It was approximately two decades ago in Bangkok. I had checked in for my return flight and was shopping at the duty free counters. I lost track of time and I actually saw the flight take off right in front of my eyes. Those days there used to be barely 2-3 flights to India a week. So I was now stuck there for the next two days, with no money. So much for my shopping.
Q: While on vacation what is most important to you?
Money! The more the money, the better your vacation. (Laughs).
Q: Which place do you recommend for a weekend getaway in India?
Alibaug. This is a coastal town in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. Barely 100 km south of Mumbai, one can just head there without much planning. It can be an ideal impromptu trip. Its beautiful with coconut plantations and umpteen beaches. Easily accessible and indeed, quite the perfect getaway for us Mumbaikars.
Q: How do you think the travel scene has changed in India in recent times?
I am glad that people have realised that India has within itself great places to see and explore. The fact that air travel has become so easy and there are great deals to be leveraged at all times, makes it easier still. The country is well connected through the air route and if one does some good planning one can combine well known tourist spots with lesser known ones and get to see the great Indian countryside. While places like Kerala and Udaipur are now on the world map, there are other places which are now becoming tourist hot-spots.
Q: Which are the five places that are there in your 'must visit' list?
There are plenty of places that one really wants to visit but yes, the really must see places would have to include Rio De Janeiro; swimming in the icy waters of Alaska; Monte Carlo; getting on the peak of Mt. Everest; and Fiji Islands.
Q: What are the things that really put you off when holidaying?
I usually am happy and content with most holidays because I manage to make them fun-filled though yes, not finding discounts in shops, deals in hotels and restaurants can be a damper!
Q: Any tips on how a young couple can make a vacation truly memorable?
That is quite simple. By having lots and lots of sex!
Q: A monument that you have seen and which has stayed most vividly in your memory
It has to be the Pyramids. They are breathtaking, majestic and spellbinding. Even after visiting them years ago, you just have to visualise them and their grandeur and beauty grips you. The fact that they are made my mere mortals is unbelievable.