Actor Rakesh Bedi is a name synonymous with anyone who grew up watching the famous sitcom Shrimaan Shrimati (1994-1999) on Doordarshan, where two neighbours tried their best to woo each other’s wives. The 1981 Chashme Buddoor actor has continued his love affair with comedy all these years. His one-man comedy show Massage, brought by Pooja Sehgal Batta Theatre, will be staged in the Capital on Saturday, where he steps into 24 characters. Performed over 350 times, Bedi walks in the shoes of an actor, a masseur, a lover, a lawyer, a politician, and a personal assistant with a sore throat. The FTII alumnus speaks about the inspiring story of failures. Excerpts:
What drew you to Massage?
Playing 24 characters for two hours straight is a great experience. There is nothing on stage but a chair and a bench. It’s the imagination of the audience that takes them on a ride, where they see places and things. The main guy is named Happy Kumar, who aspires to be an actor but he lands up as a fourth assistant director of a C-class filmmaker, who makes sex and snake movies. His sensibility goes for a toss. The filmmaker makes Happy give him a massage, and he ends up becoming a masseur.
Although the play is a comedy, it delves into the serious topic of failure. What is the biggest takeaway from the play?
It’s a sad tale of a man’s journey. Everybody knows the success stories of Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan, and how they became mega stars. But no one knows about those who failed and neither does anybody want to know about them. There are thousands of aspiring actors in our field, who do not become actors. Much like Charlie Chaplin’s stories, one can see the sadness of this man. Viewers of course laugh at Chaplin but also sympathise with the common man.
I remember after my show at Doha 10 years ago, an old man stood on a table and started clapping, much to everyone’s surprise. It took him a lot of effort to put forward this kind of an exercise, not just physically but socially too. I asked him what prompted him, and he said, “Son, I am in a big mess in my personal and financial life. I was contemplating suicide, but now I will not, after seeing the show.” So that is what the play teaches. Har aadmi ko har cheez nahi milti. Thoda toh compromise karna padta hai.
What is the lure that theatre has?
I have written and directed a new play Jab We Separated (Mumbai, May 26). It’s a take on a couple who have filed for divorce. They have divided their house by putting up a wall. The court has given them six months. I play an elderly character, their neighbour, who is lonely and listens in to their fights. He gives unwanted advice like a parasite. After every show, girls come to me because they have gone through the same experience. No film can have this effect that is created by a live performance.
Very few shows have had an everlasting effect like your yesteryear shows Shrimaan Shrimati and Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, on the Indian audience. How do you think television has evolved?
Television has spread its wings too far and wide. Shows that we did in the ’80s and ’90s, like my show Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, are still so popular that parents are showing it to their children even today. I met an 11-year-old who is hooked on to the show on YouTube. We worked with our mind and heart. There were no commercial compulsions on us. The commercial interference lately has become so over-powering, that no one is working with their heart. Tell me the name of one serial whose writer and director you remember from today. They are assembly lines with different directors shooting different scenes.
You have engaged with all three mediums — television, theatre and films. What’s your favourite?
A film is for posterity. One of my films that will never have an expiry date is Chashme Buddoor. If the film is made well, it will always remain in the audiences’ mind. Films like Sholay will never lose their sheen. Television’s advantage is that it is rolling money. One gets fame for sometime, but once the show is over, the fame is someone else’s. To me, if you are an actor and not doing theatre, then you are betraying yourself and not doing justice. It is that test of an actor and gives us an opportunity to sharpen our reflexes and keep our minds witty and alert.
Massage will be staged at LTG Auditorium, Delhi, on May 25. Tickets available on Bookmyshow