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Interview with Salim Panda
Date: August 24, 2008, Hyderabad
salim panda

The Telugu audiences don’t know that Salim Panda, the rising notorious villain in Tollywood, was a boxer, who won the Maharastra state medals thrice, besides winning a number of Inter-collegiate competitions. He was the proud winner of Mr. Junior Mumbai title as a middleweight boxer. In the wake of Vijender Kumar's defeat in the Olympics semifinal of the boxing event in Beijing, the words of Salim Panda hold some weight. “There is no future for boxers in India. They strive hard, get kicked right into their faces, but they don’t have any patronage from the governments. Our country’s boxing champion Gurucharan too had left India, in search of greener pastures abroad. Even me too was disappointed and had quit boxing some years ago.” Salim Panda, whose original name is Mohd. Salim Beig, says that his foremost ambition is to become a hero. Insha Allah! In an exclusive interview to Idlebrain, Panda speaks about Boxing, Kamal Hassan, Chiranjeevi, Venkatesh, Salman Khan, his love and last but not the least, his big dreams in Bollywood.

Tell us about your background?
I was born and brought up in Mumbai. I am a localwallah there. I was also a model, theatre artiste and walk the ramp. I was a boxer. Mr. Junior Mumbai. My world was totally confined to my heavyweight training, boxing and enjoying with friends. Ours is a joint family. We are five brothers. Pandas! I am a graduate. One day I was doing my regular things at my gym, when my friends said that I had a call from Producer Manirathnam. I thought they were joking. After two days, they said it again. I got curious, but still thought they were making fun of me. After a week, I came to know that it was not Manirathnam, but one Teja. I didn’t know who Teja was that time. Knowing that he was a big director in Tollywood, I met him and he offered me the project Jai. That’s how I came into the film world.

Your journey in Telugu film industry?
After Jai, my cameraman Ravi Varman told about me to director Gowtham Menon. He saw my profile and gave me the opportunity to do the villain in Venkatesh film Garshana. That brought me the breaking point. Actually, I thought of becoming a hero, but here I ended up as villain. It might be the frustration in me that I ripped the screen with ruthless villainy. But, you know, in real life, I love children, old people and all in distress. Hmm…next, I did films like Andarivadu with Chiranjeevi, Jagapati, Andhrudu, Don, etc.

Later, Gowtham introduced me in Kamal Hassan’s film Raghavan. That brought me merciless recognition. I was the villain alongside Daniel Balaji. In fact, when I got this opportunity to work with Kamal Hassan, I didn’t sleep the whole of two nights. When I watch my role in Raghavan, I shudder at myself.

What’s your experiences with Kamal Hassan?
He is such a great man, actor and human being. When I told him that I didn’t sleep for two nights in my excitement that I would be co-starring him, Kamal Ji went into peals of laughter. He is such a wonderful artiste and body builder that he taught me several things onscreen. He guided me in many aspects about my physic and behavior. From that moment onwards, I became sentimentally and emotionally attached to him. Kamalji cracks very good jokes.

You worked with Chiranjeevi also. What’s your experiences with him?
Oh. It’s really great. You see people like Chiranjeevi and Rajnikanth were not heroes initially. They were villains. I am like them. I will become hero one day. During the shoot of Andarivaadu, Chiranjeevi personally suggested me several times. He boosted up the moral courage in me, saying that I should strive hard as an artiste first. Opportunity to do hero will automatically come. Don’t get frustrated. Believe in yourself. I took the words of Chiranjeevi to heart. Even whenever I see the pictures of Rajnikanth, I get greatly inspired.

What about Venkatesh?
Venkatesh is a thorough gentleman. He is very jovial. Particularly, during stunts, he used to help me a lot. Boxing is different from film fighting. Despite the best efforts of the stunts choreographers, my hands would invariably work like a boxer. I have to come out of that mold. With great difficulty I tried. I tried and tried. Also, the support and cooperation of people like Venkatesh helped me a great deal in differentiating between film stunts and boxing. It is literally and practically.

How about you as a boxer and weightlifter?
I started training in weightlifting right from my school days. I was mad after muscles. My parents, uncles, brothers… everybody extended the best of their support to me. Everyday is a festival to me at my house. Simultaneously, I got trained in Boxing. Some of the best coaches in Mumbai coached me. I am grateful to them. Though it was a tedious job to become a boxer, I continuously lived on the dream. Finally, I won the Mr. Junior Mumbai title, some years ago. I was a regular contestant in many Inter-Collegiate boxing competitions. I also won Maharashtra state Awards.

How did you enjoy life in Mumbai?
Mumbai is my life and breath. I will tell you one interesting thing. My house is near Minerva Theatre in Mumbai, where Amitabhji’s Sholay was released and ran for nearly five years without break. During this Sholay hungama, I was born. People at my house say this very proudly. They used to take me to the theatre repeatedly even as I was a small child. So, Sholay is in my blood. After I grew up… till date… I saw Sholay nearly 40 times. I value friendship most. So, naturally, I spent a very boiling career in Mumbai. Another thing I tell you. I am not a partygoer. I strictly stay away from such revelry. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. And finally, I don’t think about girls. Most time, I find myself at home along with my people. I already said, ours is a joint family, the manifestation of human love and warmth.

Tell us about your joint family?
Wonderful thing on earth. Ours happens to be one among the very few joint families in Mumbai, or say in India. All put together would go up to more than 50 members. We love each other. In such a system, everybody is a property, a human property, love property. During the time of taking lunch or dinner, our people don’t forget us, the young ones. Whether we are there or not, a mention to our names are must. It is such a lovely system. My words fail to express my joy. Joint family is the greatest and noblest of all human groups in our civilization. It is like the teacher, who teaches life to his students. So, I am proud of my upbringing.

A mention to my father is must. He was a very hard worker. He ran taxis, the profession of our forefathers. He never rested, of course. He love for us all people in our big family is like an ocean. We are bound to be moved by it. Recently, we brothers wanted him to be free and take up lighter-vein job for time pass. We forced him. We can’t allow him to work and work for us continuously.

Why did you quit boxing?
To be frank and to tell you the ugly truth, there are no professional boxers in India. The main reason is that: The Indian and state governments don’t care for us, boxers. We are looked down as thugs and street fighters. It requires special training at different levels. When a boxer thinks that he can’t go beyond some particular point, his heart aches. He can’t be a normal man. His heart gets broken. No support anywhere. The nominal support is a shame. That’s why most of the boxers drop from their profession at one point of their career. It is a national phenomenon. But, in countries like the US, a boxer is always like a King. Of course, you know better than me. Take this example. Gurucharan is one of our best boxers. But, he had left for the US, finding the profession nothing here in India.

So, when are you going to be a Hero?
Certainly. My time is coming. May be by year end, I shall be a hero in Bollywood.

Who is your godfather in Mumbai? How do you expect to get through in Bollywood?
When I have worth, I only have to prove it. I have a good number of friends in Bollywood too. But, I never approached anybody for help. But, Salman Khan is a good friend of mine. He is more than a friend. He is like my philosopher, guide. He strictly suggested me to train myself as an actor.

When are you going to marry?
In two years. I have my love in Mumbai. She is a very beautiful lady – both inward and outward. I am lucky.

What’s your opinion about Tollywood?
Tollywood is like my mother. It was this industry that gave me birth as an actor. There is a lot of punctuality here. Professionalism. It is also organized.

What about your projects?
Yes. I am doing a full-length villain role (on the lines of Gharshana) in the film Manjeera. Definitely, it will be notorious villainy from my side. Very soon, I shall be taking up a couple of films.

What’s your ambition?
To become a hero. Insha Allah!

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