‘I Have A Strong Grudge Against The Film Industry’

Updated: Jul 21 2002, 05:30am hrs
After the resounding success of Shaktimaan, India’s first fantasy super hero Mukesh Khanna is launching his second mega production under his banner Bheeshm International. While Shaktimaan, which is in its fifth year of telecast on Doordarshan, fights evil forces on planet Earth, Aaryamaan —Brahmaand Ka Yoddha, a space adventurer, will fight his battles all over the universe in an endeavour to reclaim his kingdom.

A fantasy tale of high drama, battles, political intrigue, changing loyalties, betrayal, romance, adventure and thrills, Aaryamaan is a story of a warrior prince of Thar empire, which belongs to Ariyana galaxy, million of light years away from the earth. And Mr Khanna who also plays the lead role says: “This mega production is ten times bigger than Shaktimaan in terms of backdrop, drama, action, adventure, thrill, production values and special effects and it can become the third image of Mukesh Khanna (the first being Bhishma Pitamah and the second, Shaktimaan).”

And he is confident of bigger audience between 4 and 84 age group. “Aaryamaan will have a wider appeal among all sections of TV viewers. The science fiction will teach about life in space,” says the actor-producer.

It’s been an interesting journey for this aspirant engineer into the world of glamour. After graduating from St Xavier’s college, Mumbai, Mr Khanna wanted to be a plastic engineer but landed up doing LL.B. It was his brother who persuaded him to join the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. His first break came when he was signed by theatre director Narinder Bedi for Khooni. The film was never released as Bedi died before the movie could be completed. “The ’80s constituted my film era and I signed 10 to 15 films. Ruhi, Capt Bari, and Dard-e-Dil, to name a few, were box office disasters,” he says without regret.

How did Mahabharata and Shaktimaan happen “I got noticed for being tall and I was offered the negative role of Duryodhan, which I refused. So I got to play Bheeshma Pitamaha. After the success of Mahabharata, Doordarshan again wanted to make a serial with me, so Shaktimaan happened,” he explains.

But why did he refuse the role of Duryodhan. That is when Mr Khanna speaks about his aversion for negative roles. “I will never do negative and weak roles because I can’t depict a villain. I can’t do something which I don’t have the capacity to do. You can’t be a hero, a villian and a comedian at the same time.”

And though he’s made it big in television, Mr Khanna has not forgiven Bollywood for his rejection. “I have a strong grudge against the film industry because they take actors only if they have a hit behind them, even if they don’t fit the role. No one wants to take a risk with a talented star just because he has flops behind him. Talent does not count here. The crux is you need to have success behind you. It was only after Mahabharata that the film industry came running to me.”

But, of course, he’d decided not to play a bearded father. “What I’ll never do is a bearded role. There is nothing wrong with images, but it’s the repetitive roles that are boring. I need to have an image that I am comfortable with. I don’t even want to do fatherly roles any more.”

And what is Shaktimaan in real life “Shaktimaan does not smoke or drink or gamble. I don’t believe in shouting or getting angry. I am not aggressive or offensive. I believe in religion and god,” he says in one breath.

And the international fame that he has garnered from the two serials is something he treasures. “No actor ever had two images simultaneously. Amitabhji had glorious innings as an angry young man. Gabbar died as Gabbar only. But for parents I am their Bheesham Pitamah, whereas children recognise me as Shaktimaan. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party plays with my dual image during election campaigns.”

About his future plans, he says, “Being a blue belt in martial arts, I would like to play a detective in the near future. I have become a businessman in the sense that I am working on four other serials.”

The eligible bachelor looks forward to getting married but—like for most things in life—he is ready to wait for it. Says he, “As success has come late, wife will also come late. I am a believer in the institution of marriage.”