The original poster girl of TV soaps, actor-presenter Mandira Bedi says the medium needs to offer shows that inspire women
Piyush Pandey is still waiting... for Mandira Bedi. But Mandira, as of now, is well entrenched in the television and entertainment industry, and it doesn’t look like she’s going elsewhere. “I got my first job as a copywriter at an ad agency in Mumbai. Piyush Pandey offered me the job. But just then Shanti happened, and I couldn’t take up the job offer. I told him I would be back after shooting for the soap. So whenever I bump into Piyush, he jokes he is still waiting for me,” laughs Mandira. The actor, presenter and host says she never planned to become an actor. She was a ‘grubby little’ assistant working with ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar when Adi Pocha saw her and wanted her to audition for Shanti. And that’s how it all began.
Considering her acting career began with one of India’s first daily soaps, why do we not see her on such shows anymore? “Unless I get something like Shanti I will not look at scripts. There have been a lot of saans bahu serials where the only victory of the protagonist is winning over an evil in-law or relative. But yes, television is changing now. They need to create shows with aspirational content… something that inspires women and shows them doing something out of the ordinary and motivating people.” Given the changing role of women over the last few years and them excelling in domains earlier dominated by men, the shows on television too need to change and keep up with the trend, she feels.
Of the present lot of serials, Bade Ache Lagte Hai seems to have caught the actor’s attention and she also catches a bit of Parichay, because her good friend Samir Soni acts in it.
In the city for the launch of Naturals W, a new line of women exclusive salons, Mandira says, “It’s coming a full circle. First there were only women salons, then it became unisex, and now it’s back to women. It’s a salon for women by women. I just had a good afternoon… four hours of pampering at Naturals. Ever since I had my baby, I don’t get to spend that much time in a salon.”
And how does she manage to balance her career, her jet-setting lifestyle and the baby? “My son is a year-and-eight months now. My rule is if I am travelling for more than 24 hours, I take him with me. Balance is all very well, but there is no me time or free time. But I do manage an hour every day to exercise. Also, my husband has been very supportive,” she smiles.
Apart from theatre and hosting shows, the petite lady is working in a movie by Atul Agnihotri. It’s a political satire based on the Commonwealth Games. Nineteen years in the industry and the actor has had her share of controversies, especially when she became one of the first women cricket presenters on television. “I drew a lot of flak. People called me a dummy, an air head, a bimbo. I don’t claim to be an expert on cricket. I just had to ask questions and I asked what was in my mind… layman’s questions. Not everyone is an analyst.”
But she is happy that the people who employed her continued to have faith in her. And amidst all the brickbats came a few compliments too. One that she fondly recalls is, “The (late) Pataudi said to me ‘People are saying a lot about you, but let me tell you I am enjoying this panel’.” As she signs off she adds, “Faltering is part of life, and you just have to move on. Tell yourself, ‘From now on this is going to be the best shot of my life’, and it will be.”