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Chunky Panday: Working with Prabhas was a real eye-opener

Chunky Panday is clearly having the time of his life, he is now doing various roles that are challenging him as an actor and he couldn’t be happier. He talks to Anita Britto about this exciting phase in his career

The trailer of Saaho looks amazing, as do you. Tell us briefly on how you came onboard this film?

Two years back, my film Begum Jaan released, in which I played a menacing role, completely bald with black teeth. Baahubali was releasing during that time and the casting for Saaho had begun. Our director Sujeeth happened to see Begum Jaan but he didn’t recognize me in the film and told people that he wants that character for Saaho. It was only later that they realised that it was me. Then they approached me and I wasn’t sure of doing the film, because Begum Jaan was a one-off, I keep doing my Housefull and other things but our director was very clear that he wants a sophisticated villain and he was sure that he could transform me into that. So, we went to a parlour and started experimenting with my hair and other stuff and finally achieved the entire look. What I enjoyed or maybe not was that we shot this film in Ramoji (Hyderabad) and the entire crew was from the South. I am normally a cheerful person, cracking jokes but this time I decided otherwise. I wanted to get under the skin of the character, so I became edgy, behaved very irritable, I was short-tempered and this was not on purpose; it just happened due to my character. I would be by myself and not socialise, so all that exercise of being in that character helped me to play him very effortlessly.

And how did people on sets react to this changed Chunky Panday?

Forget my sets, right next to our set was Karan (Johar) shooting for Kalank and everyone was there Alia (Bhatt), Varun (Dhawan), my fight master from Housefull 4 was also around - Vicky Kaushal’s father (Sham Kaushal). I walked to their sets and no one recognised me. They thought some foreigner had come on the sets. When they realised it’s me, they very shocked and for me, that was an achievement. I also bumped into Priyadarshan and even he could not recognise me. I had to go and introduce myself and he burst out laughing. That is how I knew the look is going to work. Sujeeth has been living this film from the last four-five years, he keeps improving it, polishing it and making it better. He is turning 30 next month; he is so young and he has done an excellent job. We have to give credit to Prabhas as well, who trusted him with such a big film.

The film took two years to complete. Did it get frustrating at any given point of time?

Yes, it does get frustrating, but I removed that frustration on the sets with my character. I hope Sujeeth takes me in his next film. I was quite a brat at times but I always stayed in my character and never let it go. But, working with Prabhas was a real eye-opener. Just a week ago, the team launched the film in Ramoji and they called me, so I went. My God, it was bigger than any Bollywood function, the stage, the lighting... there were one lakh people who had come to see him. I was shocked, I had never seen this kind of craze for anyone. We meet very late in the film, but when we meet, there is chaos. Prabhas is such a good host, he would get food cooked from his house for all of us. He would never leave the sets, even if he didn’t have any shoot, he would just sit in one corner and watch the shoot. The only time he would go back to the van was to eat food. I have never seen a person like him, I have worked with so many people, but Prabhas is different, he would just work, work and work. Prabhas would always tell Sujeeth to let us all shoot first as we were their guests, he would patiently wait. He is a very unique person. But the best part was when in one scene I put him down on his knees and I told myself, ‘Wow Chunky, you got Baahubali on his knees!’ (Laughs) That was the high point for me in Saaho. It is a very different film with regard to the screenplay and everything else, but at heart, it’s a typical Hindi film. Even if it looks like a Hollywood film, the content and emotion is very much like a Hindi film. Also, I have done some crazy stunts, which I have never done before. I would tell them, ‘Listen I am not that young to do all these stunts’ but they would say, ‘You look young!’ They made me do some crazy stuff!

Begum Jaan came in 2017. What happened in these two years? What kept you busy?

I have done lot of work in these two years, I shot for Prasthanam with Sanjay Dutt, I did Housefull 4, I did a Marathi film in between, and I also did a digital show for Ekta Kapoor called Baby Come Naa. I completed quite a few films and this is the second year that my slate is full. I have such different characters in all these films. I wish I could have done all these at the beginning of my career. I love playing these different characters and entertaining people.

There is news that you will be part of Bigg Boss this year.

I won’t confirm anything. But yes I have put down some conditions, if they agree then maybe. See I can’t stay without my mobile and if they change this rule, why not then!


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