Carrying forward a legacy

Familiar Face

He landed into acting because he is a Sahni. Son of legendary actor - the late Balraj Sahni, Parikshit is a familiar face on TV and films. In the City to attend the 8th Habitat Film Festival, Parikshit Sahni shared with Metrolife, memories of his father, since the latter is being honoured with a retrospective at the ongoing fest.

After graduating from film school in Russia, Parikshit returned to India in the 1960s to join cinema. “I came here trained as a wr­i­ter, editor and director but not an actor. I was supp­o­s­ed to direct my first film Pavitra Papi but I was offered a role and dad said, ‘chal kar le, you will get to kn­ow cinema’. Since I had wo­r­ked with him on stage, I was acquainted with acting but never keen on being a st­ar.” 

As a child, Parikshit was on the brink of becoming a full-fledged actor when his father decided otherwise. “The family was penniless when we shif­t­ed from Pakistan. I was 5-6 years when somebody offered me a role. My fath­er came to me and said, ‘Can you be the earning member of the family for a while?’ I was paid around Rs 1500 which lasted us for a few months. Then another film was offered and both were big hits.” But acting was not to be, despite the fact that he was getting more offers. His father, a stickler for education first, packed off young Parikshit to boarding school. Today, “I think it was the right decision because education is the most important thing,” asserts Parikshit. 

After his return, Parikshit was flooded with acting offers but confesses that he, “didn’t have any intension of competing with dad’ and instead sou­g­ht his advice on what he sho­u­ld do! Unfortunately, Balraj Sahni passed away around the same time. It was very tough because I didn’t know what to do. So, I decided that it would better to be a third rate Parikshit Sahni than to be a fourth rate Balraj Sahni! For there can be no comparison betw­e­en dad and anybody else. He is inimitable.

“I am lucky that I have got a lot of respect because of him and people expect me to live upto his standards, but it is very difficult,” says Parikshit. 

Parikshit may not have managed to attain his father’s stature but he continues his legacy nonetheless. Even as Habitat screens some of Balraj Sahni’s landmark works, Parikshit is quietly shooting for his new television venture Firangi, “a story written 35 years ago,” for his father. “Firangi is a man who comes from abroad, like I did and behaves like I used to. It has an autobiographical role that I wrote for my father.” Befitting tribute to a great actor whose centenary is being celebrated this year. 

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