He looks menacing in Begum Jaan’s trailer. His looks shocked not just the viewers but also his family who couldn’t recognize him at first! Chunky Pandey opens up to Koimoi in an exclusive interview about his negative role in Begum Jaan, shooting among scorpions and snakes in tribal areas of Jharkhand, his transformation from a comic Aakhri Pasta to a ruthless criminal Kabir and more…
You look unrecognizable in Begum Jaan. You look menacing. What was your own reaction after you wore the look for the first time?
When Srijit da (Mukherji) told me that I’m doing the film, he gave me one condition that ‘you’ll have to lose Chunky Pandey’. He said, ‘Chunky Pandey is known for his long, lovely hair, you’ll have to cut it short.’ After seeing the mirror after the haircut I screamed! If I had a knife or a gun, I would have murdered 2-3 people in that parlour only. Then they put the black tint on my teeth and I did look menacing! I was scared of myself! When I went home, our maid servant thought I was a thief and she started screaming. Even my dog jumped to bite me. Everyone, right from my watchman to my driver got scared. My wife was on a holiday with our children. I went to the hotel in London where they were putting up. I took the keys from reception and suddenly entered her room. She nearly died! That was the biggest scare she has ever had in her life! (Laughs)
How did you feel after bagging the role?
I didn’t think I’m going to get it. Vishesh films called me for an audition. It was just two days after Housefull 3’s release. Most of the people present there, started talking about Aakhri Pasta and his dialogues after seeing me. I was sure I’m not going to bag this negative role as all of them had the comic Aakhri Pasta on their heads! They auditioned 8-9 people apart from me. In one week, Srijit called me and said you are doing the film! My wife always thought I’m an evil person. All wives think that their husbands are evil. For once I am not going to let her down (Laughs).
You are playing Kabir, a ruthless criminal in the film. How did you prepare for the role?
The place in Jharkhand, where the film was shot was full of snakes, scorpions and what not. My costumes— a vest and a lungi were drenched in mud. Mostly we used to shoot at night. So, there is no need to prepare separately. I automatically turned into an evil character whenever I reached the location. Location hi shaitaan tha!
How was the experience of shooting in such a location?
A little bit has been shot in a Haryana village near Delhi and the rest in Jharkhand. The ambience which was created, the whorehouse and its surroundings, Srijit somehow took us back in 1947. We were shooting in tribal areas near Shantiniketan border, where even mobile phone does not get network. The scenario changed from Bangladesh border in Rajkahini to Pakistan border in Begum Jaan. My mother was born in Rawalpindi in Pakistan. That gene must be there somewhere in me which helped me play Kabir because you don’t know whether he is an Indian or a Pakistani, a Hindu or a Muslim. The climax is gruesome, it’s very disturbing. I don’t know how it was in the original. Jisshu (Sengupta) did it na? Srijit Mukherji expert hai na sab ke thobra bigar deta hai? He really made me ugly (Laughs).
Did you watch Rajkahini?
No, just the trailer. I’ve also watched the trailer of Srijit’s latest Bengali film Zulfiqar and I’m curious to watch the movie.
How was it working with Srijit Mukherji?
I am a director’s actor and this holds true for every film that I’ve worked in. I act exactly the way the director asks me to. Srijit was just the opposite. He asked me to show 4-5 acts and then he’d choose one. He would do 5-6 takes for my every shot. He is very clear about what he wants. He is just superb. He is very soft spoken and is mostly lost in his own world, as if the film is always running on his mind. He doesn’t talk too much on the set but you know your captain is very strong, so you feel secure!
Aakhri Pasta in one film and Kabir in the very next— how difficult was the transformation?
Aakhri Pasta has become a household name. Coming from that to Kabir was tough because Aakhri Pasta is my personality. For Kabir, how I will walk, talk, my body language, it was all in the director’s mind already. So he helped me transform into Kabir. My only saving grace is that kids won’t watch Begum Jaan since it’s an adult film and I’ve got a huge fan base among kids. Also critics didn’t like Aakhri Pasta. I hope they notice me in this film.