By: Fuad Omar, IndiaFM
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
A tall high-rise building stares watchful over London's most famous landmarks. The Gherkin financial centre, London Bridge and the Mayor of London's office all make up a great view of London that represents history and modernisation. A tall man saunters over to a clear portal that gives him a birds-eye view of these monuments, distracted for a second before picking up his mobile phone and dialling a number. He connects to Raj and tells him to stop talking to himself as he wants to speak to him. Shaking his head slightly he tells him he's coming down and exits to the left.
"Cut! Perfect!" says director Vivek Agrawal shooting a quick glance at cinematographer du jour Ashok Mehta whose eyes squint a little as he tips his head forward in acknowledgement that it was the shot they wanted. The tall man with curly tresses smiles and looks at his director before coolly walking to the other end of the room.
"And the Oscar goes to.." he jokes causing a room full of extras and support artistes to crack up simultaneously and the corporate setting to be immediately transformed into an audience of what makes Indian cinema so magical: the entertainment factor. Still smiling, the man goes over to the clamshell monitor to check the shot he has just given for Chasing Ganesha Films' I See U. He is no stranger to big screen entertainment as he's given almost twenty years of his life to making others laugh, smile or simply be entertained. Branded a cult star within two years of his first film and responsible for some of Hindi cinema's most memorable and loved roles, Chunky Pandey still commands his crowd as if there were a 70mm screen dividing the film world and fans. He has not been seen on screen for a short while but stole the show in last year's gangster film D as the main character's right hand man Raghav. He is also receiving praise for the rushes of his latest film Darwaza Bandh Rakho which sees a handful of kidnappers hideaway in a house that seems to have no end of uninvited guests. Chunky's dialogue in the film's promo which highlights in one line what the whole film is about is apparently causing peals of laughter as someone asks him after observing the number of people bundled in one house if this is a joint family to which he shoots back "no, no, we joined them all together".
As the camera is shifted and a new shot set up, Chunky announces to the room: "I'm going for a smoke, who's coming with me?" and this Ladies and Gentlemen is Chunky Pandey. The effervescent entertaining actor and likeable man who openly invites everyone to join him in whatever he's doing. If he's smoking, having lunch or out enjoying the sunshine, he'll happily chat away to whoever wants to listen or ask anything. Inside the room, extras are laughing with him and when he ventures outside people smile at the sight of him and exclaim 'Chunky!' in disbelief at the actor who looks as fresh faced as he did a decade ago when he ruled the box office with hits such as Tezaab, Vishwatmaand Aankhen - all three films which defined the times they released in.
"I'm enjoying it in London," he tells me, "plus the weather's good this time round." In between having pictures taken of him he flicks through my book and says "I'd better be in this," to which I tell him he'll definitely be in the next edition.
He continues to tell me about Darwaza Bandh Rakho and its premise which sounds like something you'd only expect from Ram Gopal Verma and a developing story which is as crazy as its increasing cast list. The interesting thing is the very aspect that Chunky found intriguing about the film and RGV obviously conceived as his plan is also the exact same factor that intrigued Hollywood director M Night Shyamalan as revealed at the press junket for Lady in the Water the week before this very moment (The fact that as a character is introduced it has to stay in the story). It seems without realising it, Indian cinema and Hollywood are on the same thought trains and both films are ready for release - with different storylines but one similar aspect that both filmmakers wanted to experiment with. Eyeing the time, I disappear to my next appointment and thank Chunky for his time and the chat and tell him to keep making cult cinema. He smiles and I leave him basking in the sunshine that throws its rays over him surrounding him with light. Twenty years in the business and he's still smiling and so are his fans. Chunky's time in the sun is far from over and it seems a new dawn is just beginning. Give up looking back because there's a whole lot to look forward to: you're about to see Chunky Pandey as never before.