Bollywood’s ‘bad man’ Gulshan Grover takes fans down the memory lane at Sharjah International Book Fair

Conversations about his book and 40-year career as one of the India’s leading onscreen antagonists

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If acting is about dexterously camouflaging the self, Gulshan Grover has done this for nearly four decades. The ‘bad man’ of Bollywood, whose onscreen persona people loved to hate, is a man who has mastered the craft by acting in over 400 films.

The Delhi boy, who went to the reputed Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), grew up in difficult financial circumstances before making inroads in the Bollywood’s flashy world. He played characters that could send a chill down the spine. Being present on the 9th evening of the 38th Sharjah International Book Fair was the man himself talking about his trials and triumphs.

Reminiscing his long career and sharing glimpses of his life, Grover also took the opportunity to shed light on his book Bad Man, which took him seven years to finish.

Based on his exemplary performances, Grover earned the tag (Bad Man) after playing the role of Kesariya Vilayati aka Bad Man in the film Ram Lakhan directed by the then famous Subhash Ghai who offered the role to him, after hosting Grover over a sumptuous breakfast.

Recalling the day, the veteran actor said “Mr Ghai didn’t say anything to me during the time I was sitting in his house and eating. I kept thinking in my head, when will he broach the topic about a role in his film? Then when I was about to leave, he was seeing me off at the elevator. At that time, I brought up the topic and all he said ‘see you Bad Man’”.

While Grover reiterated, that there was no substitute for hard work, he also said the odds were stacked against him when he initially went to Mumbai, a city he had only seen in films, “I did not look like a conventional villain. People said I wasn’t as tall and didn’t have a towering personality as the other villains of the time. But I knew I was an average guy with extraordinary determination”, said Grover.

Grover was also among the first actors to have made a successful transition to Hollywood and international cinema, acting in Iranian, Malaysian and Canadian films. He recalled, “I wanted to take my craft to the next level. Sometimes, a few openings in life, lead to greater opportunities. This was during the pre internet era. Hollywood was unaware of our body of work and that our industry is a powerhouse of talent. Not only did I want to showcase my own talent but along the way, wanted to represent my industry and country. So that the world recognizes us, values us and respects us”.

While playing corrupt twisted characters has led to more than a satisfying career for Grover, but the on screen antagonist says sometimes the families have to pay a price for this, “family members of actors, who play mean, bad, scary and dark roles in cinema, often have to endure a lot of things. But with time, that understanding has evolved. People increasingly understand that any role whether negative or positive, is just another form of art and creativity”.

Reflecting on the role of education and how it’s linked to acting, he further says, “education is linked to everything. It teaches you to be innovative, novel and cull out your own style. Therefore, a forum like the SIBF which emphasizes on the fast fading culture of reading is a reminder of simple values like keep acquiring knowledge, be creative, remain humble and continue to work hard. Success will naturally follow you one day”.

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