India’s first international star and quintessential actor Kabir Bedi who released the collector’s edition DVD set of his international TV debut Sandokan that first came in 1976 and made him a household name in Europe followed by various other countries, gets candid with Pandolin about Sandokan, his recent release Dilwale and his upcoming film Mohenjo Daro.

Kabir Bedi

Kabir Bedi

Dilwale is your comeback sorts after some gap. Was the break deliberate? Or you were working on something else?

No I have been working on a lot of things all over the world. I did a Malyalam film Anarkali which was a big hit with an actor called Prithviraj. It released last month. Before that there was an English film called Bazodee which had its world premiere at 2015 trinidad+Tobago film festival. It is going to have the theatrical release soon. Plus I have been shooting for Mohenjo Daro and Dilwale. In fact I had been abroad for some time for a play that was staged in Canada.

Share your experience of working with the new generation of actors in Dilwale?

In Dilwale, I play Kajol’s father and Vinod Khanna plays Shahrukh’s father. It is our relationship which takes a turn. We are playing pivotal roles in the movie. My scenes were just with Shahrukh and Kajol and not with any young actors.

How was it working with Shahrukh Khan?

I have worked with Shahrukh earlier and I think he has grown over the years – as a person and actor. He has a wonderful heart and is a very bright person. Also how he has managed to retain himself as a superstar for so many years is remarkable.

One of your famous TV show Sandokan is making news again as you have released in it India on DVD in Hindi. Why did it take so long to get a DVD release in India?

Sandokan made me an international star. It had such huge access as it was dubbed in many languages and shown country after country. That gave me the means to go to Hollywood and move on to do James Bond film Octopussy, The Beast off War, Andata Ritorno, The Thief Of Baghdad, The Bold And The Beautiful, Dynasty, Knight Rider etc. All these projects were based on the success of Sandokan. This also made me spent several years outside India. In between I would come to do some Bollywood films like Khoon Bhari Mang etc and then go back. Only seven years ago when I came back to India, I realized that India is going to be the place where I would stay. Being based here I realized that the new generation has no idea the kind of work that I have done abroad. So I just thought of bringing Sandokan dubbed in Hindi in India in the form of a DVD. What is relevant to today’s generation is that Sandokan is an Asian hero.

Still from Sandokan

Still from Sandokan

Tell us about the show and your role in it?

Based on a classic work of Italian writer Emilio Salgari, Sandokan features the exploits of a brave young Indian prince who turned pirate and fights with the British Empire during the latter half of the 19th century for the freedom of his people and the English woman that he loves. This Italian, French and German co-production was is tale of friendship, love, betrayal, action and adventure. This mini-series was released as a six-part television show in Italy and other parts of Europe in the ’70s. The show has got that historical feel and flavour to it. This is something new which makes it relevant today. The whole idea is to bring it here so that young generation sees it.

This also has an eight minute film part of it where I show what Sandokan is all about and how was it made.

Ever since you have launched it in India, how has the response been?

It has been very good. It is not like a film where you need to have certain number of copies sold. The DVD is going to be there forever. The Christmas time is here so people are even gifting the DVD. The timing seems to be right. This is going to be with them forever. Sandokan has only aired once on Indian television, back in the early ’80s at Doordarshan at a very unimpressive time slot of 10 pm. Therefore not many have seen the serial or know of it.

So in the last two years, I spent a lot of money on restoring the original negatives on which the mini-series were shot as well as cleaning up the sound. The response seems to be great as it is the story of an Indian prince, which we can all relate to, and it has all the action, adventure, and drama you could hope to see which is shot at some very glamorous locations.

The show is likely to draw Indian audiences, what’s the connect factor? 

There are a couple of things. First reason is that people know me and it is going to tell them that what made me a star internationally; thirdly it will tell them about the ancient struggle. Moreover it is a great story and is shot like a film. It is not shot like a TV series. Each episode took over a month to shoot. We had Oscar winning production designer. It was a lavish production. And the music absolutely rocked. We made the Hindi version of music. We have indianized as much as we could.

Are you open to more television, maybe an Indian series?

If you look at my career abroad, a lot of my success has happened through television. Lot of TV series that I was part of were for TV. Five years ago I did a prime time comedy show for Television. So I’ve always been open to TV. Well I have a relationship with all types of media. I began my career in radio. I have always enjoyed all the fields and would love to experiment anywhere.

From all the fields that you have dabbled into, what have you liked the most?

Theatre gives you a wonderful audience and uninterrupted performance. There a joy of being on stage. Films give you immortality. Television gives you a medium which is used by millions of people and which has incredible reach. So each medium gives you a very different thrill.

Kabir Bedi in Sandokan

Kabir Bedi in Sandokan

You have done great amount of work internationally. What really worked in your favour in terms of being a international star?

The thing is that each of the project that I did had their own impact. For instance being part of the James Bond franchise was huge because there is a huge fan club of James series. I have been fortunate to have always worked in popular shows.

In the career spanning over three continents in four decades, are there any unfulfilled dreams as an actor that perhaps you would want to pursue now?

I have never done science fiction and would love to do something like that. Something to do with future could be something that would interest me. Beyond that I wish I could do more historical. Also I would have loved to be part of more comedy show.

You’ll also be seen in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Mohenjo Daro. Could you please tell more about your role in that film?

Mohenjo Daro is set in the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro, Sindh Pakistan in the era of the Indus Valley civilisation that dates back to 2600 BC. It is an epic movie and Ashutosh has weaved a beautiful story around one of the oldest civilization. I have a very powerful and finest role in that film. That is all that I can tell you right now.

What kind of research was required for your role in it?

I have been a history student. I graduated with History honors from St. Stephen’s College Delhi. So I know a lot about civilizations. And the rest of the research is all about what I wear which is something that is done by the costume designer.