Interview
 
Rakesh Bedi Interview with Deepa Punjani
Thespian Rakesh Bedi has written, directed, and is acting in the Hindi play JAB WE SEPARATED. We take the opportunity to speak to him about his new play, his time with IPTA and at the FTII, and of his long relationship with Vijay Tendulkar's play MASSAGE.


 By Deepa Punjani


Deepa Punjani (DP): You have written and directed a new play: JAB WE SEPARATED and you are also acting in it. What should the audience be looking forward to?

Rakesh Bedi (RB): JAB WE SEPARATED is a hilarious take on one of the most burning issues in our society these days - divorce. A couple has filed for divorce and the court has given them six months time to reconcile. They have divided the house and the belongings. The mindset is that when so many years have passed, even these six months will wither away. They don't use this time constructively. I play an elderly neighbor who keeps coming uninvited and at wrong intervals to give the couple advice. The idea is that if one can think positively and if we can learn to forgive, marriages can be saved. This message is imparted with a great dose of humour.

DP: You have had long innings in entertainment, be it on stage or on screen. What are your reflections?

RB: I feel that theatre is the purest form of entertainment. But cinema if good, remains for posterity. Television is like instant coffee. I have enjoyed all three mediums but the stage definitely gives me a kick. The stage keeps the actor alive and doesn't let you rust. However good work in any medium is not missed by viewers.

DP: You have been an integral part of the Indian Peoples Theatre Association (IPTA) and played a prominent role in the parallel cinema in the 1980s. How do you view those times vis-a-vis the present?

RB: Times keep changing and one has to adapt with time. IPTA has given me a lot in terms of experience and theatre aesthetics. I must have given at least four to five thousand live performances by now of all my plays put together. You cannot gain such experience anywhere else. The line between parallel cinema and mainstream cinema has blurred now. Good cinema is lapped up by the audiences even if the star value is missing. The bottom line is that one has to keep abreast with changing times.

DP: When you started out, who were the people who most inspired you?

RB: I was inspired by Chaplin to start with. What I loved in his humour was the pathos he created. Then of course thespians like Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan have ignited my passion. For humour, actors like Mehmood, Johny Walker and Kishore Kumar have been my inspiration.

DP: What would be your one favourite reminisce from your time at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII)?

RB: FTII was a great experience. It taught me a lot. I'm very sorry that we lost our Guru Shri Roshan Taneja recently. I remember every moment of my two years at the FTII very fondly. One of my fondest memories is when we were almost jailed for a night. I also got to meet the greats like Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa and François Truffaut during my time there.

DP: You continue to do Vijay Tendulkar's MASSAGE. The play has become synonymous with you. Tell us how you embarked on it and what sustains your interest.

RB: MASSAGE has been one of the greatest chapters in my life. Tendulkarji has written many great plays and all have been staged in various languages. But MASSAGE is the only play which no one else has attempted. Initially Tendulkarji was vary of me doing it but when he saw the results he inspired me a lot. MASSAGE is a monologue in which I portray 24 characters in a span of two hours. I keep doing it because it's a great exercise for the performer and as well for the viewer. The director of the play Harbansh Singh brought the script to me and I fell for it. I adapted it from Marathi to Hindi. I took nine months to prepare and the production has been going on for 17 years now. It has been seen by the who's who in our country and by some, many times over. Mahesh Bhatt after seeing it, said: "MASSAGE will always remain as fresh as the morning breeze."

*Deepa Punjani has been writing on theatre and performance for close to two decades. She represents the Indian National Section of Theatre Critics, which is part of the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC) that has over 50 participating countries.






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