Considering that he has had a 30-year-long career in Bollywood and over 400 films to his credit, Gulshan Grover, Bollywood’s most well-known actor-villains, has none of the starry airs one might expect of him. In fact, the sobriquet “Badman” doesn’t suit him at all. Grover quietly arrived in Bangalore to interact with students of Parikrma Centre for Learning in Koramangala. The actor reminisced over his childhood days, the films he has acted in and spoke on the importance of education.
As we spoke over a cup of coffee, Grover revealed what life was like as a youngster. “Education has a very special place in my heart. I come from a lower-middle-class family. We faced financial difficulties. But my father gave a lot of importance to our education; he never indicated to us that he found it financially difficult to support our education.”
Grover helped in the family finances by selling detergent powder and phenyl in a wealthy neighbourhood before attending school in the afternoon. “The ladies would buy from me because they would ask about my school and wanted me to pursue my education. I studied up to M. Com in Sri Ram College of Commerce, which is one of the most difficult courses to get into. I changed three buses to get to Delhi University, all because of the drive for education.”
Grover’s recent film I Am Kalam, tells the story of Chhotu, a poor Rajasthani boy, who inspired by A.P.J Abdul Kalam has a desire to learn. “The film has something of my life in it as well. I had the best time promoting it and taking it to festivals around the world. I won awards for it too,” he says.
Grover argues that education in India is sort of becoming the privilege of the wealthy. “Mahesh Bhatt, my friend, took me on a Vidya Yatra, an education walk, from Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace to the main city in Ahmedabad. The Yatra was meant to show that education is not the birthright of the rich, but that of every child.”
Grover has trained actors at the Actor’s Studio. Now he occasionally takes classes at Roshan Taneja’s acting school. He says it is not enough to be a talented actor. “Overall development with a stress on education is important to pursue any profession.”
Grover was among the first actors who took Indian cinema to Hollywood. “I would say I was a pioneer. Prior to me the actors who went to work in Hollywood, left India and settled there. I never left India. I took my talent and craft to the international stage without settling abroad.”
“I think carrying oneself like a star is a negative trait. Those who have such an attitude should think of their times of struggle, when they used to go to producer’s offices with their portfolios or pray to God for their success. You are a success today because of the blessings of the people.” Incidentally, Grover has acted in two Kannada films. “In one of them, One Man Army I played a good guy,” says the genial actor.