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Kabir Bedi’s Stories On Love, Loss And Life

Kabir Bedi gets candid discussing his autobiography, ‘Stories I Must Tell: The Emotional Life of an Actor’ while exploring the allure of the 60s, the height of his career, his relationships, the loss of his son and the spirituality that he carries within.

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Kabir Bedi

There has been no moment in history like that of the coronavirus pandemic. One, where we are more connected to each other than ever, and yet have to live our lives in isolation and moments of collective tragedy at the same time. It has been a period of great introspection and creativity for some and for actor Kabir Bedi, it led to the genesis of his autobiography ‘Stories I Must Tell: The Emotional Life of an Actor.’

The book had been an idea that he wanted to put down for ten years but only found the time to do so during the lockdown. From the dawn of his career as an All-India Radio Journalist to his success as a Hindi, English and Italian cinema actor, he narrates how he journeyed through the allure of the 60s, his rise to fame, his relationships and personal tragedies all of which are strung together by his understanding of spirituality and life.

The Swinging Sixties

Talking about his autobiography at a BW Dialogue Webinar on ‘Celebrating the Festival of Life’, Bedi recalls how he first came into his own as an All-India Radio Journalist and his seminal interview with The Beatles. He recalled, “It was a magical moment for me because the Beatles represented the whole 60s- the magical swinging 60s. Where the world was changing, where they were people demonstrating on the streets for Peace, flower power, the counterculture movement, the bill that had been invented. Sexual Liberation, Carnaby Street and Psychedelic clothes were the norm and it was the time of The Doors, Pink Floyd and Simon and Garfunkel. These were the sounds of our age and a whole new age was being born. I think the 60s are probably the most exciting decade in the 20th century. So it was more than just meeting for me, it was meeting with the symbols in the age that I was growing up in.”

Delving into his personal life when he was an actor, he recollected his relationship with actress Parveen Babi and the moments that were famously then glamourized in tabloids. He called the chapter that it stars in as the choices that he was confronted with. And while it was his story, he stated that it was told through the prism of the people that he had known and loved.

Life As An Actor

Following his success in Hindi cinema and subsequently, in Hollywood and Europe, he remembered the height of his fame as a tumultuous period in his life where his success was matched with a catastrophic emotional breakdown in his personal life. He commented on the frailty that many actors experience. “Film stars are glamourized, adored, admired, looked up to and seen as symbols of success and of vain. But at the heart of it, they are as insecure as anyone else. Even the biggest stars are afraid of their next film failing and it is a very slippery slope in this industry. You know, three hits and even your biggest star can be shaken. And I've seen many come and go in my time,” he remarked.

He also discussed that his path in life was influenced by the life of his parents who gave him the courage to take the road less travelled. He also mentioned how spirituality found its way into his life and his varied heritage from his father’s Sikh ancestry to his mother’s Buddhist journey. He credited his exposure to mediation and Vipassanā at an early age as factors that gave him the strength to overcome many of his struggles. He added, “training in meditation at that early age (at 10) gave me a certain inner strength to be able to watch my mind rather than be swayed by it; to watch my emotions rather than be swayed by them. Of course, I'm human. I feel emotions, I feel pain but there was always an energy source of strength in me. I think that saw me through the worst of times, emotionally.”

Of Mental Health 

The pandemic has brought loss closer to us all as a tangible entity, and we all share the collective grief of our time. And it becomes important to acknowledge that grief requires time to pass. Opening up about his son’s death and mental illness in the final chapters of his book, he explained why he wrote it. “It was important that I did it. Firstly, as a catharsis to come to terms with what happened. Secondly, to give people a feeling of what it is to be in that situation. Thirdly, on how to deal with it today. Today medicines are better, there is hope. We know much more. And we must also understand that caregivers need just as much sympathy as those who are suffering,” he explained. Dealing with mental health conditions shouldn’t be any different from physical conditions and he called for the need to end the stigma surrounding it.

Looking back, he shared that many of the moments were not easy to write as he had to revisit some painful memories and share his truth from the height of all glitz, glamour, passion, emotion and honesty. He calls the book the sum of his emotional journey, thus giving the title its name.

Talking of social media and the anonymity to slander that it grants he succinctly concluded, “…they always say don't waste your time dealing with negativity. And I’ve realized that time is the biggest resource we have. And it's not about being right or wrong but about being able to use your time in the most fulfilling way possible to make life as beautiful, wondrous and magical as it should be; together with each other and all the suffering we go through, and all that we experience.”