His voice is ever so mesmerising and that personality has only bettered with time. Kabir Bedi is within touching distance of 70, but he doesn’t understand full stops. In the last two years, the man has spent time remastering the DVD of Sandokan, his immensely popular Italian series TV and dubbing it in Hindi for the Indian audience.
“It’s been a long and painstaking process, but amazing too. Reliving things that happened 40 years ago, recollecting every scene we shot — oh, it’s been an emotional roller coaster,” says the actor, who has to his credit the first Bond film with an Indian, Octopussy, and the TV series The Bold and The Beautiful, in a career studded with a host of international and Indian roles.
Back in the day
His just-released DVD is a two-part series of three hours of content in each. In an added effect, it also has an eight-minute introduction by Bedi. “Many people ask me why I worked on Sandokan 40 years after it was made. The reason is that I want the new generation to watch what the TV series was about. It was a trailblazer then and I believe people can gift it to their children. I have spoken about how I was selected for the role and how we had shot it back then. When I was watching it during the dubs, I thought I must’ve been a maniac to have shot certain scenes that I did. Some of those were terribly dangerous,” he laughs.
Much as it was popular in Europe, Sandokan didn’t get a respectable release in India, laments Bedi. “I tried approaching Doordarshan, but they said we don’t have the foreign exchange! Well, so I acquired the Indian rights to the series and DD did air the show, but it was late at night and the voice was not too clear. That story ended there. Now we have got it digitally remastered besides the Hindi dub, so the result is stunning,” he says.
Bedi was never the quintessential Hindi film hero. “I have a lot of respect for Bollywood heroes but somehow I didn’t fancy myself as a singing and dancing actor though I do sing and dance. So, after I did Kachhe Dhaage and the play Tughlaq here, I was looking for new offers and this one (Sandokan) just came by.
They were looking for an actor to play an Asian prince-turned-pirate and wanted me to come to Rome and audition for it. I sensed a huge opportunity and went to audition. At my own cost, too!” he says. Next thing he knew, Bedi was wooing European and Asian audiences alike as Sandokan. The shoot went on for six months. As Bedi would know later, that show was a stepping stone to further success. “It gave me the financial means to go to Hollywood. Also, people started recognising me and that was a huge plus.”
A global desi
Bedi is all praises for Indian and Indian-origin actors who are making it big globally. “I think Anil Kapoor, Om Puri, Priyanka Chopra, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Irrfan, Freida Pinto, Dev Patel — all of them are doing a great job. Yes, typecasting is part of any actor’s career, I had to diversify to Afghan and Arab roles, but this leap that Priyanka has taken with Quantico is commendable,” he says, appreciating the actress who plays an FBI agent in the American TV series.
But for now, the thespian is back to Bollywood with Dilwale and the upcoming Mohenjo Daro. For Ashutosh Gowariker’s Mohenjo Daro, Bedi is working with Hrithik Roshan. “I worked with his dad in Khoon Bhari Maang and working with the son is an equal pleasure. We often sit and relive the memories of that film, talking about how shooting with his father was,” he laughs.
Bedi has had a career spread over three continents and he confesses that straddling across them has been his biggest challenge. “But I would still make the same choices, if asked to relive the period. Okay, possibly I’d spend more time in Europe and India and lesser in America! But life has offered me the best.”