The paradoxical star: Actor Chunky Panday

Chunky Panday is one of the most-publicised paradoxes of Hindi Cinema. He saw the dizzying heights of stardom in the late 80s and the early 90s and saw the depths of obscurity soon after.
Chunky Panday ​
Chunky Panday ​

Chunky Panday is one of the most-publicised paradoxes of Hindi Cinema. He saw the dizzying heights of stardom in the late 80s and the early 90s and saw the depths of obscurity soon after. However, in the last decade or so, Chunky has had an image upheaval of sorts, and through sheer persistence, he has evolved into an actor who is sought after by filmmakers across the country.

“Unlike success, it is very easy to handle failures. When you are down and out, no one is even looking at you. It is a wonderful place to grow and learn. Of course, it can kindle the anger in my being, but what I do with that feeling is what’s important. I prefer channelling that anger into creativity and creating something that will be there for posterity,” says a rather zen Chunky, who is set to make his Tamil debut with the upcoming Karthi-starrer Sardar.

Narrating on the call that facilitated his Tamil debut, Chunky shares, “It was 2020, and I was shooting in very cold temperatures in Rajasthan. Director PS Mithran reached out to me, and narrated the character. What freaked me out the most was how the character is etched from the age of 35 to 70. I had never done anything like this before. Although he wasn’t aware of some of the more recent works I have done, the subject definitely excited me. It had all the right commercial elements, and it was very much my kind of film,” gushes Chunky, who is even more effusive in praise about his “biggest discovery from Sardar” — Karthi.

“There is something very spiritual about Karthi. He spreads happiness and makes the sets so comfortable. Sardar was not an easy film to shoot at all. In fact, there was a time when we were filming a scene from multiple angles, and Karthi had to wait for three hours for his shot. Any other actor would have gone and sat in the caravan, but he sat on the set for the entire time with his beard stuck on and even giving cues for my scenes.

A lot of actors are dedicated, but it is exciting to see such a huge superstar being so passionate about cinema,” says Chunky, who swears by his undying passion for masala cinema, and reiterates that Sardar is definitely one of them. “I am like a child that way. When I go to movies, I laugh, cry, eat popcorn and samosas, pass comments, and shout at villains. That’s Chunky Panday for you. I even tell my daughter Ananya to not lose that innocence.”

Having been in the industry for over 35 years now, Chunky feels he has seen it all, however, Ananya’s success continues to make him happy and proud. “Even today, a couple of people in this hotel walked up to me to take a picture because I am Ananya’s father. Isn’t that a great feeling for any parent?” says a happy Chunky, who is doubly happy that the lines between various cinema industries in India are finally blurring. “I am in awe of some of the films coming from the South.

Vijay Sethupathi was outstanding in Super Deluxe. With multiple films being remade across languages, we will see more resources coming together. It is very exciting. Even this year, we had the great Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan, and Vikram was such a brilliant film too. These projects have rocked the entire Indian film industry. I hope Sardar joins this list too,” says a pensive Chunky Panday, who randomly veers off the track by asking for a recommendation about what to have for lunch. As I said earlier, Chunky is definitely a paradox.

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