It’s been thirty one long years since I debuted on the screen with the release of Saaransh on May 25, 1984. On this occasion, after acting in over 450 films, many international projects, hundreds of theatrical productions, I look back on the path I have traversed.
It has been a wonderful journey of ups and downs, a journey in which I have several times lost faith, only to discover myself. In all this, I would not be as enriched in thought and attitude — as I find myself today – if my first film was not Saaransh.
I came to Bombay, as it was then known, on the third of June, 1981, and till the run up to Saaransh, my life epitomised that of a struggling actor. I had run out of creditors, goodwill, slept on railway platforms, put on false facades…in short, I had done everything that could be expected of a person for survival. The only motivators which kept me going was the pursuit of my dream and the advantage I had of being a trained actor; a gold medallist at that! Saaransh itself had its heartbreaks; at 28 I was given the role of the retired 65 year old school teacher B V Pradhan, only to have it taken back when I had been intensely rehearsing the scenes and had told everyone about my big break. Then my luck turned again and I got back my role.
My luck kept changing all through; from being one of the most in-demand actors, I went bust when I started an entertainment company. Again, just when I thought my role would win a national award, it eluded me! So much has happened to me that I encapsulated my life in my autobiographical play Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai which has been running to packed houses in over a dozen countries in the past 15 years. My life lessons made me distill a philosophy of optimism: that Failure is often a stepping stone to Success and in Life, Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai — as is detailed in my play.
When I look back now, I am content with what I have achieved in these three decades. I no longer desire to be at page three events only to see if my picture has been published the next day. I have lived with the insecurities, the backbiting, the hype by the media and the subsequent and inevitable demolition by the same media. I have understood that to conquer the world, you have to first conquer yourself. And I think I have traversed a long way along that road.
This is not to say that I have come to the ideal state where I am immune to success and failure. No, I have not reached that stage yet. I still get hurt, I still get disappointed. It is not that I no longer hunger for major roles or awards. If I bag it, good. If not, I can live without it. But they matter less and less; in a sense, I feel liberated. Right now, I am at my peak as an actor, a performer and as a teacher. I have been sought out by multinationals and universities abroad and by top-flight institutes in India such as the IITs as a motivational speaker. I guess that is because I am at peace with what I do; I have struck my work-life balance. Recently, I lost the opportunity to do a major role in successful International television show as well as a Hollywood production due to my theatre commitments. But unlike what I would have done five years ago, I did not juggle around or walk out of these engagements. I learned to accept the flow of life.
I don’t think I would be looking at life like this if Saaransh did not happen to be my first film and if B V Pradhan was not my first screen character. The moral, upright, principled, Gandhian lifestyle of Pradhan has impacted me all through these years. This is a case where reel life has impacted real life! And in some time with the passage of years, when I look like B V Pradhan, I hope to be like him when I seek nothing. Life for me will then have come full circle.
So on this occasion, I thank Saaransh, all my directors beginning with Mahesh Bhat, all my producers starting from Rajshri Productions, the actors, technicians and industry folks I have worked with, my audiences who have been with me these 31 years and everyone who has helped shape my philosophy that in life, Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai.