By Chaitanya Padukone
Never had a young rugged Gopal Bedi ( that’s his original name) an agile football player who got inducted into a Defence Academy as a trainee Air Force Officer, ( and then opted out) ever imagined that he would end up as a menacing prolific Bollywood star-villain with stage(screen)name ‘Ranjeet’ in hundreds of movies. This impactful name was suggested by his mentor iconic actor-director Sunil Dutt who had also cast him in ‘Reshma Aur Shera’. “It was as if destiny hijacked me into stardom and I had won my battle in the struggle ‘rann-bhoomi’ of Hindi films with my name being ‘Ranjeet’,” smiles the suave senior actor-director who is fondly nicknamed ‘Goalie’ (aka ‘goal-keeper’) The (75 plus) rejuvenated, colourful veteran Ranjeet, known for his fancy stylized head-gear and large smart sun-glasses, has a grown-up star-material actor son Chiranjeev and a multi-talented fashion designer daughter Divyanka (aka ‘Gigi’) waiting to strike it big. Over to the outspoken yet sentimental Ranjeet for an exclusive conver-session:
Your smart, handsome son Chiranjeev seems ready for being launched into movies?
In fact, had it not been for this Corona pandemic since past almost 18 months, his debut-with-a-bang scene could have possibly taken off. But he is not in a desperate hurry. Besides, I know that Jeeva has that star-quality in him and I would prefer that he makes his debut as hero or maybe even an anti-hero in a performance-centric role under a reputed big banner. Already he has so many young star buddy-friends in the showbiz industry including Tiger Shroff and Disha Patani.
When you are outdoors, there are many ladies who seem intimidated by your baddie-brute image and are unwilling to approach you for ‘selfies’?
Yeah, sometimes it does happen. But most people today are smart enough to figure out that those molesting and maar-dhaad scenes were all part of ‘mock-make-believe’ co-ordinated action sequences . But when such people love to hate me, I take it as a ‘disguised-compliment’. That’s because it proves that my ‘screen-acting’ was so convincing. Leave alone the strangers, initially when I started out, even my own family had disowned me and wanted to throw me out when they saw me as a menacing villain in movies like ‘Sharmilee’ (1971).
Now with my prolific interviews appearing frequently in the media, my fans and movie-goers are aware that in real-life, I am a staunch vegetarian, occasional fun-loving social-drinker but a traditional family-man at heart. This ‘badmaash’ baddie Ranjeet is a lovable ‘shareef ‘ gentleman Gopal off-screen (chuckles). In fact, my top female co-stars will vouch for my decency. Interestingly I have defied my nasty-negative image and even played shareef roles in some movies and TV shows like ‘Aisa Des Hai Mera’. In director Saawan Kumar Tak’s suspense thriller ‘Ab Kya Hoga’ (1977), I had played a positive role of a psychiatrist-doctor (laughs heartily). More recently, I have acted in wacko comedy movies ‘Welcome’ and Housefull ( 2 and 4) series. Cinematic history has [proved that quite often, it’s the super-powerful villain-characters ( like Gabbar Singh and Mogambo) which have all-time recall-value in public memories.
( The writer Chaitanya Padukone is an eminent award-winning senior film-journalist-columnist and author of memoirs book R D BurMania)