The well-known cine and theatre actor, Kabir Bedi, was in Jaipur recently to release his tell-all autobiography, ‘Stories I Must Tell: The Emotional Life of an Actor’. In conversation with literature enthusiast, Jagdeep Singh, the actor shared interesting snippets from his life such as his interview with the renowned rock band The Beatles, his experience of doing a James Bond Movie, the creative satisfaction of working in theater as well as personal experiences like trying to drive his son away from suicide and maintaining friendly relationships with all his ex-wives. Below are some excerpts from the conversation:
Meeting the well-known rock band, the Beatles, in 1966 gave me a big high. I had interviewed them for AIR in Delhi. I managed to secure the interview through their manager, Brian Epstein. Those 30 minutes with the four iconic band members are indeed memorable. My interview on the AIR was broadcast without any fanfare, which was kind of disappointing. What was most shocking was that they did not have the interview on record. The same spool tape was used again to tape other programmes. This angered me so much that I decided to stop working for AIR.I have always walked out of secure jobs.
When I started working for the Lintas advertising agency in Mumbai, I was, fortunately, reporting to Alyque Padamsee, the great theatre director. He gave me a big break by casting me as the protagonist in Girish Karnad’s famous play ‘Tughlaq’. After that, I also performed the lead role in plays like ‘The Vultures’ and even Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’. Nikki who played the role of Desdemona later became my wife. Acting in a play is so much more creatively satisfying. However, the films and TV series pay much better. All three mediums have their own strengths, however.
On Protima and Parveen
Both these highly creative women came into my life one after another. They were bohemian in their lifestyle. My years with them are indeed memorable but then I also had a number of problems. It was with a heavy heart that I had break up with them. Protima is also the mother of my children, Pooja and Siddharth. Unfortunately, Siddharth later committed suicide. Parveen and I had such a beautiful relationship and I was so unhappy when it ended. And both of them had such tragic deaths.
I had a huge problem in Bollywood since I have two left feet. I could not dance and prance around trees with heroines and do lip-syncing for songs. I did the movie ‘Seema’ in which I did not have to do the song and dance numbers. I thought I could get away in other movies too. The most successful film was ‘Khoon Bhari Maang’ in which I played the role of a villain. It was a blockbuster hit. My two movies ‘Kachhe Dhaage’ and ‘Nagin’ also did well. I moved on from Bollywood since I realized I was different from other actors and would not survive.
The role of ‘Sandokan’ gave me the greatest success in my life.I became an international star overnight and was mobbed by fans in Italy. The country also gave me the highest civilian award. Everywhere in the country people just called me ‘Sandokan’. Surely the high point in my career and life was Sandokan. Also an important turning point.
I did a number of Hollywood films. My role in the James Bond movie ‘Octopussy’ also brought me worldwide recognition. I was the first Indian actor to get a role in a James Bond movie. Here I am fighting with Roger Moore throughout the film.
Writing about the suicide of my son Siddarth is the most difficult chapter in my book. He had a mental health issue and despite all our efforts in treatment, he took his life. This was a great shock in my life. In fact, I am still mourning for him.
Relationship with his wives
I have had a relationship with a number of women. In fact, I get along quite well with my ex-wives like Nikki and Ixchel. People call me a ladies’ man—but the fact is that I need someone to be at home when I come back. I can’t be alone. Presently, I am married to Praveen Dusanj. I am very happy and satisfied. I think it has been a great life with my former wives being friends with no rancour or ill-will.