A MALAYALAM debut, a role in a Caribbean musical drama and in Shah Rukh Khan’s latest, plus Hrithik Roshan’s next — it can’t get more eclectic than this for an actor. But all this is a year’s work for film and TV personality Kabir Bedi, whose filmography straddles three continents and four languages. One of the earliest Indian actors to make it big in both European TV and Hollywood, 69-year-old Bedi has his charm intact and is every bit a style icon even today, with his dapper looks and inimitable, deep voice.
In Dilwale, which hits screens today, the actor plays an important role. Being an SRK film, expectations have surged and Bedi acknowledges this. “Anything to do with Shah Rukh Khan is special. When Rohit Shetty and Kajol are a part of it, it only gets that much bigger. Dilwale will be a thrilling film to watch,” says the actor. Bedi and Vinod Khanna play senior roles whose actions will set the stage for important turn of events in the movie, he says. Up next is another important role in Hrithik Roshan’s much-anticipated period film, Mohenjo Daro, directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar. The film is slated to hit screens in 2016, and the actor is tight-lipped about the project in which he is rumoured to play the villain. In the industry for over four decades, the actor observes that what has changed over the years is the reach of Bollywood. “Bollywood has now gone international. People out of India too know our movies well,” says Bedi, who lives in Mumbai now. Of the recent movies, he picks Baahubali, for its enormous scale.
Down South, the actor’s debut Malayalam film,the romantic-thriller Anarkali with Prithviraj in the lead, hit screens last month to a positive response. “Many years ago, when I saw Chemmeen, it left an impact on me. I can’t claim to be tracking Malayalam films but having done a film now, I’m aware of the work of people like Shaji and John Abraham,” he says. Ahead of the film’s release, the actor was at the premiere of his film, Bazodee, at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, 2015. “I play an Asian father gone broke, trying to get his daughter married. The film features popular Trinidadian soca artist Machel Montano, and bears the flavour and feel of the West Indies,” says the actor.
This year, the actor and TV personality has fulfilled another long-term dream— to make available in India the iconic 70s Italian TV series Sandokan that took him places, literally. Sandokan is the epic tale of a Malaysian pirate and his fight for freedom from the British Empire. Bedi’s portrayal as the swashbuckler Sandokan made him a rage and led to him being cast as the villainous Gobinda in the Bond film Octopussy. He has released a DVD version of Sandokan, dubbed in Hindi and with English subtitles, available online. “It was this series that gave me an international career and kept me abroad for 25 years. It is part of my legacy. I wanted to bring it to India. It is a dream come true,” says the actor, who was officially knighted by the Italian Republic in 2010.
Dilwale releases today.
— Sharadha Narayanan