His name figures among the best known bad guys of the Hindi film industry. His screen image is that of a ‘rapist’ and yet he says that he has “always been a shy person”.
After nearly five decades in Bollywood, actor-villain Ranjeet says that he was always a self-made man.
“I am completing 50 years in the film industry. I have lived life on my own terms. I did not have a godfather. Despite the image (of a baddie), I have never been involved in any controversy all these years. I can say that I have lived very gracefully,” Ranjeet said.
Having done various roles in over 500 films, in practically every Indian language, Ranjeet says that work for him is paramount.
“Work is work for me. I can do any work in the field of acting. Be it films, television or theatre, I am willing to do anything,” he said.
Born in Punjab’s Jandiala Guru town near Amritsar and named Gopal Bedi by his orthodox Sikh family, Ranjeet had never worked to get into films.
“When I was young, I used to play football for at least six hours daily. I used to be the goalkeeper and everyone used to call me ‘Goalie’. That name has remained with me since then. I was selected for the Indian Air Force but had to leave it during training.”
He happened to be in Bombay (now Mumbai) once and was attending a party where a producer asked him if he would be interested in films. “I immediately said yes and my film career started,” Ranjeet said, adding that the first role he was offered never saw the light of the day as the film was never made.
Ranjeet, who studied in Delhi’s Hindu College for some time, got into the film industry in 1966-67, playing the role of Rekha’s brother in the movie “Saawan Bhado”.
He was given the screen name ‘Ranjeet’ by superstar Sunil Dutt with whom he did “Reshma aur Shera” in 1968. He started doing villainous roles from his third film ‘Sharmelee’ with Shashi Kapoor and Rakhee.
“I have done over 500 films in all languages, except Malayalam and Assamese. But I have seen just about eight or 10 films in these five decades. I had never got any formal training in acting,” he said.
Having successfully created a name for himself in negative roles, Ranjeet says that he has learnt to live with his image of a villain and a rapist.
“My family, which was very orthodox, threw me out of the house when they learnt that I had raped the heroine in the film (Sharmelee). For some time, I had to stop signing films. I had to convince the family that I was only acting,” Ranjeet recalled.
“I am still a very shy person. I am a vegetarian and hardly drink,” he said.
Ranjeet feels that the days of the ‘iconic’ villains – the likes of K.N. Singh, Pran, Prem Chopra, Amjad Khan, Gulshan Grover, Amrish Puri and Shakti Kapoor are over.
“The Indian film audience still waits for the thrill of the entry of the villain. However, now the lines have changed. A lot of heroes are also doing anti-hero and negative characters,” he said.
On the lighter side though, Ranjeet says that roles of regular villains have also shrunk with the size of the clothes of actresses. “It is no longer the same. Things have changed,” he says with a laugh.