Kabir Bedi has made the most of his time and talent in his 50-year-old career spanning Bollywood, Hollywood and European cinema. Like most successful actors, he moved from the stage to the big screen, while taking up television projects in between.
He made his first splash with Hulchul in 1971, starring opposite Zeenat Aman. Khoon Bhari Maang in 1988 got him the box office numbers needed to prove his versatility. Much praised for playing the lead in Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story as Emperor Shah Jahan, the cat-eyed hunk received applause for his role in Deepa Mehta's Komagata Maru and Tamil film Aravaan.
Octopussy, in which he played a Bond villain, was his first big break in international cinema. Read it all in his recently launched autobiography, Stories I Must Tell.
What made you write this book?
For a decade, I have been wanting to talk about so many things. I wasn’t sure how and how much to say. Last year, it struck me that writing could be a good way of letting it all out. I didn’t use the linear form, because I find it quite boring, which is why it is a series of overlapping stories. I had the freedom to explore each scene truthfully.
Could you sum up the book?
It is about the demands of my career, tumultuous relationships, love, setbacks and loss, in addition to changing belief systems, and how in the end, I made India proud.
Though you’ve acted in over 60 films, why didn’t we see more of you in Bollywood?
I was doing Indian films but then some Italian filmmakers approached me. Because of that, Indian producers saw me as unavailable. I came back to work on Khoon Bhari Maang, which was a super hit. Then I left for Hollywood to act in The Bold and the Beautiful. In 2005, I came to India and did various films that got me a lot of acclaim.
People took notice when you signed the James Bond film Octopussy.
The Italian television series, Sandokan, of which I was a part, helped me get attention. The role was that of an Indian Sikh. It came with many challenges, like Indian actors in London protesting over why an actor was being brought from India. The production house had to explain to 30 actors why none of them were better suited.
You write about interviewing The Beatles, and asking John Lennon whether he had taken LSD?
When I was a 20-year-old reporter for AIR, I was a big Beatles fan. A social revolution was sweeping the West then. Hippies had popularised marijuana and LSD, and there were rumours that The Beatles had done them too. I wanted to discover the truth directly.
The press wrote terrible things about you following your breakup with Parveen Babi.
I did my best to heal her. But I didn’t say anything at the time, because she was rebuilding her career in India.
Would you say your choice in women was wrong?
I see them as learning experiences. I was in a tumultuous relationship with Protima. After our open marriage ended, I found myself in a relationship with Parveen. I had given myself no time in between. By the time Parveen left me, I was emotionally drained.
When Protima streaked in public, you didn't react. Instead, you focused on Sandokan. But what was going on inside your mind?
Protima told me about the streaking incident in the middle of my shooting in Malaysia. The deed had been done and couldn’t be undone. I didn't want more emotional dramas to overwhelm me. And Sandokan went on to open the doors to my international career.
Something you advise people against doing?
Marrying in haste and for the wrong reasons. Being careless with money. For more, turn to my book.
Are there things that will surprise Alaya F in this book?
There is a lot she will discover in my book that will both surprise and delight her.
Most valuable life lessons?
You can take the path less trodden and still survive. Mine was full of agony and ecstasy, ruin and resurrection.
What do you tell yourself every day?
The game is not over. I’m still young. There’s more to come.