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How the world's most popular soap opera taught Kabir Bedi about acting

On the international actor’s 71st birthday today (16 January), we go over how Bedi broke into American television with a stint on the soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful.

Sonal Pandya

The beloved soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful, had its first showing on 23 March 1987. Airing on CBS, the show grew from its California setting to be adopted around the world. In 2008, it was the most watched soap opera on the globe with 26.2 international viewers. As recently as 2015, the long-running series was in the top five most watched shows in South Africa.

Kabir Bedi had enjoyed a healthy international career in additional to the roles he occasionally did in Hindi cinema after his debut in OP Ralhan's Hulchul (1972). Besides Hollywood, he became a star in Europe with his 1976 Italian mini-series Sandokan on the novels of Emilio Salgari. Bedi played the title role of the Indian prince-turned-pirate. The Bold and the Beautiful arrived on Indian shores in the 1990s, just as satellite television was changing the face and shape of Indian television. Bedi joined the programme in September 1994 as Moroccan Prince Omar.

With Hunter Tylo in The Bold and the Beautiful

With his deep voice and indeterminable looks, he could play any ethnicity and he usually did. Bedi's scenes were opposite series regular Hunter Tylo, who played Dr Taylor Haynes. Prince Omar finds Taylor after a plane crash and takes care of her when she loses her memory. He names her Laila and saves her as her family back in Los Angeles believes her to be dead. This wasn't the first time Bedi had appeared on American television. He did short stints on General Hospital and Dynasty before his role as Prince Omar.

Bedi, who was last seen in Ashutosh Gowariker’s Mohenjo Daro (2016), spoke about his soap opera experiences and what it taught him to an overseas online magazine, "The soaps are truly the hardest form of acting. It is like doing theatre with just one rehearsal! In terms of speed and footage canned, we are talking half an hour edited per day. In a film-set, three minutes is considered a good day! It’s all regimented. When you walk in at 8 am, you are given an hour and a half of basic blocking. Once you are through with that, you get into wardrobe, make-up and all of that with one proper rehearsal. There is a small break for lunch, after which its action all the way. You better have a super memory in terms of movement and lines, because if you blow your lines and there’s re-shooting, it costs the company that many thousand dollars. Too many re-takes means you are written-off from the script, cast and production."

Bedi initially took on the role to introduce himself to American audiences but made his country proud when the show was made known back home. He was an early trendsetter as an actor selecting projects in international television. Actors who came after him, like Rahul Khanna, Priyanka Chopra, Nimrat Kaur and Suraj Sharma are becoming household names in America and abroad now, but Bedi paved the way for them to get there.