The ability to laugh at himself has got Alok Nath the much-needed comic relief in his four-decade-long career in the form of a TV series Tu Mere Agal Bagal Hai
In the opening episode of the show Tu Mere Agal Bagal Hai, Laal Singh readies to introduce his tenants to the audience. But first, he seeks the blessings of “Babuji”. On cue, the sound of a temple bell is heard and Alok Nath appears in an off-white kurta-pyjama and aubergine jacket. After calling himself “jagat Babuji”, he explains he owes his popularity “not to destiny, but sanskaar,” evoking laughter from the live audience on the sets. He then goes on to add, “Jab main paida hua, nurse ne sabko bola ‘Mubarak ho, babuji hue hain’,” bringing alive a meme on himself that went viral on social media a few months ago.
Alok Nath’s ability to laugh at himself sure makes one smile. For him, however, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. The 58-year-old is getting to be a part of a genre he last attempted four decades ago. “I was last part of a comedy called Chhappe Chhappe, a TV show in the late ’80s. Even my 1987 film titled Kamagni, didn’t work, nor did my villainous part in ‘Bol Radha Bol,’ he admits, laughing. “I became a victim of my own good work in Buniyaad.”
Alok Nath has bittersweet memories of Buniyaad, the iconic tele-series on Doordarshan in 1986. “It established my credentials as an actor but I became Babuji forever, the benevolent father figure with a perpetual smile, who has a discourse on sanskaar ready,” he says, adding that no one remembers his avatar as a young man on the show. “The show began with me as an idealistic youth, but my character aged from 20 to 80 within a year,” he adds.
Following that, none of Alok Nath’s attempts to veer from that image worked. Not even a reminder to the industry that he was a National School of Drama graduate and started his career with a small role in the Oscar-nominated film Gandhi. The actor has since played elderly characters in nearly all of the 200 films and also the 15-odd television shows that he has worked in.
What etched his Babuji image in stone were his characters in the films and tele-series by Rajshri Productions. “He first worked with us in Saransh as an astrologer. But his role as the heroine’s father in ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ won people’s hearts,” says PK Gupta, V-P, Rajshri Productions. While his close association with the production house got him consistent work — Alok Nath has been part of seven films and an equal number of TV shows by Rajshri Productions — it also meant he was relegated to playing a version of his previous characters. In Rajshri’s next, Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo, Alok Nath will have a guest appearance.
Alok Nath doesn’t deny that the roles became easy to perform. “It’s a comfort zone now,” he says. This is why he doesn’t mind the #BabujiForever memes that were trending online three months ago.
The actor expects the comic part to help people see he isn’t entirely the sanskaari-babuji he is perceived to be. “The ability to laugh at myself has clicked with the very youth that started the jokes,” says Nath, who, contrary to his image, goes to the gym, loves Thai cuisine and likes his tipple on weekends. “But there is some amount of truth in that image. I begin my day with a puja,” he admits. In addition, Nath hopes that Tu Mere Agal Bagal Hai on SAB, where he laughs at himself, will serve as a fitting end to a long career as Babuji. “It’s a nice swan song, no?” he asks, laughing.