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Interview Hindi

Lot of khalnayaks got buried but the Bad Man has stayed alive: Gulshan Grover

As his biography, titled Bad Man, is released, the iconic villain speaks about the book, his struggle and why he feels his 'Bad Man' avatar is still relevant.

Keyur Seta

Commercial Hindi cinema of the yesteryears was known for its iconic villains. It was believed that the character of a villain has to match up to the hero in order to establish the latter’s greatness. Stalwarts like Pran, Amjad Khan, and Amrish Puri are a few of the most celebrated villains in Hindi cinema. 

Following this, the 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of another iconic villain with Gulshan Grover. The name became so synonymous with negative characters that he is referred to as ‘Bad Man', also because in Ram Lakhan (1989) his villainous character had this monicker. He ruled most of the 1980s and 1990s playing the negative characters. Films like Shiva Ka Insaf (1985), Zalzala (1988), Ram Lakhan (1989), Jaisi Karni Waisi Bharni (1989), Shola Aur Shabnam (1992), Vishwatma (1992), Anari (1993), Sir (1993), Mohra (1994) and Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (1996), come to mind.

Such was his popularity as a villain that the monicker is attached to him even in 2019. Therefore, it is no surprise that he named his biography 'Bad Man' too. Co-written by veteran journalist Roshmila Bhattacharya and published by Penguin, the book focuses on his professional and personal life. 

In an exclusive interview with Cinestaan.com, Grover spoke about the book, his struggle and why he feels his Bad Man avatar is still relevant. 

Who thought of the idea of a book on your life story, and when?

Personally, I am not inclined towards biographies or autobiographies. I had made up my mind that I will never write one. There were a lot of reasons behind it. But then an incredible team approaches you. Firstly, Penguin is a prestigious publishing house. They saw great potential in my life story. They felt this story needs to be told.

And I have seen my co-writer Roshmila Bhattacharya’s journalism career and she has a wonderful writing style. Like her pieces on nostalgia, which are so appreciated. They are also factually researched. All these capable people gave me confidence and I was happy to do this. The writer herself said that the story fascinates her. Plus, I didn’t go to a publishing house. It was the other way around.

Will the book feature only your professional life or your personal life as well?

There will be everything. It will focus on my life from early on till today.

In India some controversy erupts after the biography of a famous person releases. Are you anticipating any such controversy after your book is released?

One reason why I didn’t want my biography to be written was that the writer writes it from his or her perspective. He or she might not understand all feelings. For example, a lot of people came to interview me today. If somebody writes this after 10 years, he or she might say things like, it was my first interview ever, I had to wait for three hours and the interviewee was showing attitude. But they won’t remember that I have been giving interviews since 9 am.

Hence, everyone has one perspective. So, if you write about how someone was incorrect once, they might not be in a position now to defend it. Sometimes in biographies you mention about some women who are now mothers of kids. In today’s circumstances it won’t be right for their family and kids to read it. Some people present such things in an insensitive manner. Also, maybe there was no other way to present that incident. Writing a biography and autobiography is a very sensitive thing.

During his earlier days

My sisters get upset to see that I have written about my poverty-ridden days. But the fact is that we were poor. When I was 13-14 years old, I had an afternoon school. In the morning I used to sell washing power and detergent. I used to carry my uniform in my bag. I used to carry 2-3 rotis wrapped in some cloth or paper. I didn’t carry any subzi or dal as that would spoil my uniform and samples. So, I used to order chai from some stall and used to eat the rotis with it.

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And I used to sell the cheaper version of Surf [washing powder]. The women who were my customers were so kind that they used to buy it out of pity even if they didn’t need it. The following week they would buy again despite not having even opened the previous packet. They were wonderful human beings.

If this is not told in a truthful way then it won’t be an inspiring story that under these circumstances I came first class first. I was the first, first class first of that area; we used to stay in the outskirts of Delhi. In our school, English was taught in Hindi because nobody in the class knew English. So, from there to rise and go to an English speaking college and go to Hollywood and act in English is something. Hence, it is important to mention this but my sisters don’t approve. Even such things can backfire in biographies. Some relative might say, we helped him but he didn’t mention us.

Amidst all this, how did your journey in acting begin?

The decision was taken when I was pursuing Masters in Commerce at Shri Ram College of Commerce. I decided that I won’t pursue a career related to academics, which was a very stupid decision in that era. 

On the sets of Sooryavanshi with Rohit Shetty and Akshay Kumar

Were you a rebel then?

I was neither rebellious, nor aggressive. I was a very timid and agyakari bachcha [obedient kid]. I told my father that I won’t be interested in working in places like bank and I wish to do something in arts. But I was unsure, I just felt like it and I wanted to. My classmate who used to sit next to me was supreme court justice Arjan Sikri. He is considered as one of the top 50 justices of India. Just recently he was recognized as the justice of Singapore international court. I could have also done something similar but I was inclined towards arts, so I went there. Hence, my story is interesting. 

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You entered Hollywood when it wasn’t a regular practice here...

By the grace of God, I have been working in Hollywood from the time it wasn’t a practice here and I am still working. This is also a reason why this story needs to be told. As Mahesh Bhatt sahab said that reading this book is important for those who dream. Then you won’t be scared to dream. This man who didn’t have food to eat could make it. 

How did you feel when you were given this nickname 'Bad Man' for the first time?

I didn’t like it. Who will like being called 'Bad Man'? But slowly I started understanding that there are people who get famous by certain nicknames. Like some are called Guddu, Motu, Chitkya, etc. They don’t choose their nicknames. It is done by your parents or people from your locality. And when that person grows up to be a wonderful person, that nickname doesn’t have any relevance. It just becomes a reference point. 

As Chhappan Tikli in Mahesh Bhatt's sir

Also in the industry, Aishwarya [Rai Bachchan] is called Gullu I guess. Hrithik’s [Roshan] nickname is Duggu. And Raveena [Tandon] used to address Ajay Devgn as VD because his real name is Vishal Devgan. She used to ask on the sets, “VD kahan hai? [Where is VD?]

Hence, earlier I used to detest and get worried for being called Bad Man. But then I realized that education does a lot of good things to you. I realized it will only remain a reference. It will lose the meaning. I am intelligent and educated. Today, I happily embrace it as my identification. I have earned it. I am not unhappy being known by that. 

Do you consider yourself fortunate to be born in an era where there was a demand for those typical villains in Hindi cinema? There are no artistes who specialize as villains any more. 

Whenever some actors became legendary, it happens because at that time it was the need of the hour. Now these specializations are getting finished. Now there are no comedians. Otherwise there were people like Rajendranath, OP Ralhan, Mehmood. Even those specialized at playing vamp, bhabhi and mother have got finished. The evolution and change of storytelling does finish some of these things. That is what has happened to the villain. 

But the very fact that somebody like me did not get finished and is back with a bigger strength validates the fact that if you are good, if your brand is still sizzling and if you don’t do those two scenes roles, you won’t get finished. 

What has been your criteria for signing films and how has it changed over the years? 

Actors lie when they say they have one criteria. The criteria can never be consistent. Earlier it was working with big producer or director. Then it was having a chance of working with a big star. Then it becomes money so that you can buy a house. So, criteria changes every time. When you have made it and are comfortable financially, that’s when the main criteria emerge. Before that there is no criteria; nobody can even dare to have one.

Right now, the criteria is that the film should be of certain level and my role should be very, very good. Money comes later. 

Do you feel a biopic should be made on your life since your journey has been from rags to riches? 

Firstly, the story should be interesting and people should like it. The story will encourage people to not get scared by their economic condition. For example, when I told my dad that I want to become an actor, he said I am fine to do anything but I should be home by 7pm. I said I am going all the way to Mumbai to become one, so he started weeping. It was because of this simplicity of his that he didn’t let me become an actor for a year. Now, if someone makes a biopic or not, I am not bothered. 

What are your forthcoming films? 

I am doing three of the biggest films made in Bollywood currently. One is Sooryavanshi with Rohit Shetty, which stars Akshay Kumar. I am the antagonist in it. I have Sadak 2, [Mahesh] Bhatt sahab’s comeback picture. I have Mumbai Saga with Sanjay Gupta. This means that a lot of bad men and khalnayaks got buried but this Bad Man hasn’t. Announcement about my other films will be made soon and that will make it clearer that this Bad Man is still relevant.