At a virtual event hosted by Rediffusion, actor Kabir Bedi spoke about the beginning of his career in the advertising industry, his ambition to make it as a filmmaker, and the darkest aspects of his life which he penned down in his book titled ‘Stories I Must Tell’.
Nostalgic journey in advertising
Bedi began his talk by sharing that he’d been in advertising for five years of his life. “It’s always a warm space when I'm surrounded by advertising people. It was an extraordinary time in my life where I learned many things.”
Speaking about how his journey in this space began, Bedi clarified that he did not move to Mumbai in hopes of being an actor, or an adman. He said, “I wanted to become a filmmaker. There were no film schools then, so I thought I’d join an ad agency, hone my craft and then become one.”
Bedi’s first job was with Lintas, with Alyque Padamsee as his boss. Bedi recalls how acting was always his hobby since school and university times.
“However, it was my time at Lintas, and my relationship with Gerson da Cunha and Alyque Padamsee, that really shaped my years in advertising,” he said.
He shared how Padamsee realised his talent and put him in one of his plays.
Apart from Lintas, he also worked for Ogilvy. Bedi stated that it was there that he met great minds like Frank Simoes and Ranjan Kapur before they launched their agencies.
First big project
Bedi shared a story about how his career in advertising almost came to an end at the beginning itself, owing to the first ad film he was on.
“One fine day at Lintas, Alyque had gone to London for a deputation and Gerson called me and told me that he wanted me to head a film that we were routing through the Yash Chopra family. It was for a product called Himalaya Bouquet Talcum Powder - which had a clichéd script.”
Bedi reminisced how he had too many ideas running in his head and how he wanted so badly to change the script.
He said, “On the day of the shoot, there was BR Chopra, who in those days was even bigger than Yash Chopra. All the legendary Chopras were part of this shoot. When Dharam Chopra spoke about doing a long shot, I went up to him and said, 'Sir, I don’t think we should do this in long shots.' He looked at me and said, 'Mr Bedi, we have been making films for Lintas for a long time. You’ve just come in. Let us show you how we make ad films'."
The shoot was done entirely the way the Chopras wanted, according to Bedi. However, he realised how bad the film was, once the team got to the editing. “I was told not to worry and that the music added would cover up for the film so much that viewers wouldn’t even have the time to think about it.”
Bedi then approached da Cunha and asked him to come to take a look at the film. da Cunha called out to the agency employees and asked them to join him in viewing 'Kabir's first ad film'.
Bedi added, “The whole agency piled into the theatre, and this horrible film was playing - with bad visuals. Everything about the film was bad. There was pin-drop silence when it ended. I was asked to meet Gerson in his office, where I explained whatever happened and how I was not given a chance to make it better.”
Da Cunha told Bedi that the film couldn’t be sent to the client.
“Gerson told them that we would pay for the reshoot and we did. He didn’t fire me, but let me keep my job. And I went ahead to make some really good ad films, even when I moved out of Lintas and joined Ogilvy,” Bedi added.
Adman turned actor
What got Bedi on the map as an actor was when Alyque decided to cast him in the role of Tughlaq, which was Girish Karnad’s first play in English.
Bedi recalled, “The play had an excellent lineup of talent, but what got people talking about it was the very first scene which featured me. It became a hit and suddenly, Bollywood started calling. I thought of it as a good chance to eventually become a director. That’s how I decided to join films.”
Stories Bedi must tell
Bedi then discussed his book titled ‘Stories I Must Tell’, which spoke not of his triumphs, but the tragedies of his life.
“My book chronicles all the controversies I went through, including the ones in my relationship with my first wife. The point is to tell it like it was,” he said.
He reached the end of his talk by stating that nobody knew many things about his life. “People in India have seen my Bollywood films, but nobody here would’ve seen my many Italian films. The truth of the matter is - nobody knows all my stories, nobody even knows all my films,” he surmised.
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