Chunky Panday on 29 years of 'Vishwatma'


Be it Divya Bharti declaring how she had followed her love across the seven seas in ‘Saat Samundar Paar’ or a turban-clad Naseeruddin Shah professing his undying love for the country in ‘Dil Le Gayi Teri Bindiya’, Rajiv Rai’s ‘Vishwatma‘ that released 29 years ago today, evokes memories of an era when tell-tale songs, good vs evil, and patriotism ruled the roost in Hindi cinema. With Sunny Deol, Chunky Panday, Amrish Puri, Jyotsana Singh, Gulshan Grover also part of the cast, the multi-starrer was a hit upon release. In an exclusive chat with ETimes, Chunky revisited the shoot of the film. Here’s what he had to say:

How does it feel when you look back at ‘Vishwatma’ that released 29 years ago?
It is one of my favourite films. If I am not mistaken, it was the first Bollywood film to be shot in Africa on such a huge scale. In fact, we were the first ones to shoot in the Masai Mara National Reserve. Back then it was very exciting to shoot at such exotic places, and for this film, we were stationed there for over two months. Director Rajiv Rai shot the film on such a big scale that it became a trendsetter.

What was the shoot like?
I have so many memories of that place. In fact I like it so much that I also went there on my honeymoon!

Still, shooting in the African wilderness with such a huge cast couldn’t have been easy…
(Laughs) I’ll tell you exactly how it was. On the first day of the shoot, we went into the forest to shoot for the song, ‘Ankhon Mein Hai’ but because the unit was huge, the animals ran away from us which is not what we wanted. The next day, my co-star Jyotsana Singh and I ventured into the jungles with two small units, who would shoot us from the car as we danced around the trees, with animals roaming in the background. We were matching steps with carefree abandon when a car of tourists wildly gestured at us to move. When we looked around, we realised that just 25 feet away from where we were dancing, a lion and lioness were sprawled out. They were staring at us with mild curiosity perhaps wondering what were we up to. Lucky for us, they seemed to be well-fed, else I wouldn’t have been here to talk to you today (chuckles).

The film also featured some big names…
I had already worked with Sunny in ‘Paap Ki Duniya’ but Nasser bhai and I were working for the first time. Divya Bharti was the life of the unit; there was never a dull moment with her around. Then there was Gulshan Grover, who had shaved off his moustache for the first time in his life for the film. He had never been clean-shaven because he used to think his manhood will be threatened if he shaves off his moustache. So, one night, when he was asleep, I went to his room and shaved off half his moustache, so he was forced to shave the other half (grins). After that, he started experimenting with his getup.

Go on…
There was this time when we were shooting for a scene in a hotel casino and I was dressed up in the uniform. When I stepped out for a smoke, a gentleman who had just arrived in his car, gave me a tip thinking I worked there. It was hilarious!

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