‘People had forgotten me, I could not keep my success’: Chunky Pandey
Chunky Pandey has the ability to laugh at himself. With a career trajectory that involves 33 years in Hindi cinema – including a quick detour in Bangladeshi cinema – and over 80 films, the actor happily says that he has never faced any ostracisation or the brunt of what being an outsider in the industry entails as per current debate.
“I have been around for 33 years and I don’t have a filmy background. I don’t know if I am an insider or an outsider but I have never felt any discrimination. Our industry works on talent, it works on saleability, jo chalta hai wo bikta hai. That is what this industry or any other industry works on,” Chunky says.
Chunky has seen quite a few highs and drastic lows in his career. While he started off as a solo hero made in the mould of 80s and 90s, he was soon playing the second lead. The actor famously delivered a blockbuster Aankhen in 1993 with Govinda, hoping that he would be swamped with work and realised that on the contrary, work just dried up.
Chunky, however, sees no point in blaming anyone else for his disappearance from the cinema screens in mid-90s. “Failure is quite easy to handle because no one is looking at you. Success is difficult to keep and not everyone could handle it. I could not keep my success. I had such a great run. By 93-94, it all came to an end and I had to go to Bangladesh and work there. Talent will always want to work,” says Chunky.
Mid-90s was an era of change with new faces coming on the screen every year. “It is the choices you make, all actor go through highs and lows. Even God cannot tell which film will work. In showbiz, so much success and fame comes your way and then it passes on to someone else. I remember Govinda made his debut in 1986 and I started my career in 1987. There was Aamir Khan in 1988, Salman in 1989, Shah Rukh in 1990 and Ajay Devgn and Akshay Kumar in the next two years. It just didn’t stop, there was a new hero every year. Your attention gets taken away, but this is how the world works, people want variety.”
Bangladeshi cinema welcomed the Indian actor with open arms, but it was wife Bhavna who told him to return to India because that was his ‘identity’. “When I came back, I learnt the value of success and learnt to cherish it. I had a game plan in mind, which was not there in the beginning. Maybe I was too young. There is a tendency to blame people, but you shouldn’t. You are the creator of your success and failure,” he firmly says.
He remembers the time when children didn’t even recognise him. “There were two generations who had forgotten me. There was this little kid who came to me and asked my name. I was quite disturbed and I decided consciously that whatever film I do I will win over those children,” he said. The result was films like Housefull series with the character of Akhri Pasta, clearly leaning towards hamming.
After Begum Jaan, Chunky took a turn towards negative roles. Zee5 web series Abhay 2 will see him as a serial killer. “Audience has been kind and welcoming with characters like Aakhri Pasta. For comedy, you need good writers, but villainy comes naturally to me,” he jokes.
Directed by Ken Ghosh, the show also stars Kunal Kemmu. “It is a three-dimensional character –a lovable uncle by day and a killer by night. I have modelled him on my school teacher who was an affable man, kind and timid, but with a terrible temper. I had a love-hate relationship with him. I have moulded him around that, the same hairstyle, a slight stoop and the walk with a faint hint of a limp. He is the kind of character at whom kids will laugh but when he transforms, you don’t want to be anywhere near him,” Chunky says.
Harkening back to the insider-outsider debate, Chunky may have been outsider once but he is part of the machinery today with daughter Ananya Pandey’s launch by Karan Johar coming under a fair amount of scrutiny. Siddhant Chaturvedi’s response to Ananya’s comments that her father ‘also never went on Koffee With Karan or acted in a Dharma film’ on Rajeev Masand’s show became meme material.
“You live by the sword and you die by the sword,” is Chunky’s response to this. “If you are in the limelight, you will get brickbats and you have to learn to live with it.”
However, he refuses to believe that a producer will spend crores on a star kid not related by blood unless they know that it is a profitable venture. “If you are investing crores in your own child and making a film for them that is one thing but if you are spending ₹30-40 crores to make a film with someone else’s child then it is a business decision.”