Actor Rakesh Bedi on why he chose to make people laugh
If they said laughter is the closest distance between two people, they certainly had people like Rakesh Bedi in mind. If his very name brings a smile to one's face, a chat with him fills you with laughter. Just like in reel life through various films and television serials where he had us in splits, he lives up to his roles in real life too.
So, this graduate of Bhagat Singh College, Delhi University, begins with why he just couldn't become the engineer his technocrat father posted at the Australian Embassy wanted him to be.
“On my father's insistence, I went to take the entrance test of IIT-Delhi. The test paper contained 13 questions with three parts each. I knew only one answer. The paper started at 9 a.m. I wrote that one answer and submitted the paper at 9.05 a.m. The examiner got the shock of his life. Wide-eyed, he asked, ‘Are you sure you have done the answers?' I replied, ‘Actually, I have come to the wrong address,' and left the exam hall!”
Next, the actor tried Biology. “But the cockroaches on the table to be dissected sent shivers down my spine. I ran away from there too,” he recalls.
During his school days at DPS Mathura Road, Delhi, and Kendriya Vidyalaya, Bedi was active in theatre. In 1972-73 he formed his own theatre group, called Ankur Arts, in Delhi. He reminisces, “Those were the days. With little money in hand, we used to produce, direct, write and market our own plays. Khud hi ja kar poster chipkate the aur theatre book karte the.”
His love for acting made Bedi join the Film and Television Institute of India, , Pune. “My father wasn't angry as he knew this was the only thing I could do. Moreover, we were also an artistically-inclined family, as my maternal grandfather used to act in films and his co-stars used to be those days' big actors, like Ram Kumar and Chaman Lal. Since I inherited acting, there was not much bother in the family about my choice of career,” he says.
Lessons in acting from an established institute, Bedi says, help you reach your goal faster. “If you know the technicality, you reach your goal faster, otherwise you beat around the bush. You set your own parameters any way.”
After the course, Bedi knew exactly what he wanted to do — comedy. And in his debut in Saeed Mirza's film Diploma, he played the lead role of a comedian.
“That was it. Those who saw it insisted that I must do comedy only. And I also think that if I tell you a joke and you laugh at it instantly, my job is done. I don't believe in the bifurcation of humour into white or black comedy. I think those who cannot make others laugh say it had black humour, or those who don't understand comedy say it was black humour. Plays like Tajmahal ka Tender and Massage, of which I have done over 100 shows, certainly have black humour, because they expose the system, but while I acted in them my sole aim remained to make you laugh instantly. Then you go home and think whether it was black or white or slapstick humour. You see Charlie Chaplin films. They have pathos but they primarily make you laugh, and that's why they are successful too”.
The film Diploma brought him the famous serial Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi on Doordarshan. It also opened more doors in the film world, where he again preferred comic roles.
“It's not that I didn't get serious roles or I couldn't do them. My bent of mind is such. By nature I am naughty. Main thoda shararti hoon and that's why even if I get into a tense situation, I prefer to wriggle out of it soon, even at the cost of belittling myself. For instance, if I have hurt someone and the situation has become tense, I prefer saying sorry even if it hurts my ego. That way, I know that at least I will be relaxed,” Bedi avers.
With this easygoing temperament, Bedi has made great friends in stalwarts like Rajkumar, Sanjeev Kumar and Dharmendra. He recalls, “I have done some five films with Rajkumar and shared a great rapport with him. While working on the sets of Bulandi, I heard that my mother had passed away and I had to rush to Delhi for her last rites. The next day the producer was standing at my doorstep; he had come to take me back. With a heavy heart when I reached the sets, Rajkumar held my hand and took me for a long walk. He told me, ‘Once even I had to come for work when my brother died. If you hadn't come, the producer would suffermajor financial loss. We have to be professional actors and I am not responsible for calling you back.” With these words he put me in the right frame of mind.”
Bedi has consciously stayed away from daily soap operas on TV. He says, “I am the only actor who has been regular on television without daily soaps for over 27 years. I can't work in serials where I have to stand in a corner for ages and execute only one emotion,” he laughs.
But doing comedy in Hindi films hasn't made him happy either. “If there are lesser comedians or fewer comedy roles, actors can't be blamed.
It is the fault of filmmakers.” He feels comedy gets pushed to the background during scriptwriting. “Comedy is only added later to bring some laughs. It always gets step-brotherly treatment in films.”
That's why Bedi, a father of two children aged 23 and 19, has been active in theatre for several years. Few know that he is a poet too. And the poet in him sees the serious side of life.RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN