The first thing that strikes you about Kabir Bedi’s book ‘Stories I Must Tell’ is the honesty with which the actor has written his autobiography. This honesty can be particularly seen in the way he talks about his relationships, the open marriage with Protima Bedi and the relationship that he had later on with Parveen Babi that changed his life. He also talks about the trauma of the three divorces and how he eventually found fulfillment. In short Kabir Bedi bares his soul and takes you on a roller- coaster journey.
The book begins off with his stint as a freelancer at All India Radio. We see his fascination for the famous band Beatles and how he manages to interview them. There is also a glimpse of his friendships with Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi. They had become friends at Aunty Gauba which is Kabir Bedi’s first school In Delhi. Kabir Bedi gives a brief insight into their personalities.
From there we move to his life in Bombay where he started his career in advertising. It is here that he meets Protima Bedi and after a brief courtship they decide to get into an open marriage. More than Bollywood Kabir Bedi focuses on his international journey with particular reference to Sandokan which made him a household name in Italy. In the last chapters he talks about the fascinating love story of his Indian father, a Philosopher in Europe and his British born mother. There is also the heartbreaking chapter on his son Siddarth’s battle with schizophrenia and the consequent suicide.
The best thing about the book is how Kabir Bedi weaves the many worlds of his life, from material to mortal to spiritual. It doesn’t look like he is a first time storyteller. There is certain eloquence to the way he writes.
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Not surprisingly the best chapters are reserved for his love life and his parents. There is certain candidness in the way he reminiscences about the significant loves of his life. The first one being Protima bedi, his first wife and mother of his two children, the other one being Parveen Babi the glamorous actress. A lot of the book’s first part is devoted to the tumultuous relationship that he had with both women. He writes that he had gone from one emotionally draining woman to another. At the same time he also admits the mistakes that he did and never paints himself as a perfect man. This quality of Kabir Bedi adds more emotional heft to the book.
Coming to his parents their love story is indeed unique. Their personalities and their journeys from revolutionaries in pre- independence era to eventually becoming spiritual people makes for a fascinating read. Kabir Bedi captures all these things in a deft manner.
His childhood also makes for an interesting read. A part of his initial childhood was spent as a monk in Rangoon. From his childhood Kabir Bedi had experiences with different religions. The reason being his family lineage had a direct connect with Guru Nanak Dev and his mother was ordained as a Buddhist nun. In the chapter ‘Ramblings on the beach’ Kabir Bedi shares his understandings of all religions and these include world religions as well.
Another heartrending chapter in the book is his son Siddarth’s battle with schizophrenia. You see the helplessness of a father in not being able to save his son in spite of his best efforts. There is no doubt that this chapter will make you emotional.
Apart from the above mentioned ones Kabir Bedi also deserves appreciation for how he sketches his interactions with international celebrities. He manages to give a character sketch of them with their traits.
The one slight flaw is that we don’t understand why Kabir Bedi had to jump into marriages so frequently! He had four marriages altogether but doesn’t talk much about the second and third ones, or for that matter even about the son he had from second marriage. His daughter Pooja Bedi acted in some movies but wasn’t very popular. His granddaughter Alaya F recently made her debut in Jawaani Jaaneman.
In totality, Stories I Must Tell takes you on a roller- coaster journey of emotions. It comes across as a deeply personal story with no superficiality.
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