The ‘OG’ 'Boogie Woogie' man Ravi Behl spoke about how the lockdown turned out to be stepping stone for his ‘refreshed career’
It’s always said that, ‘Original always remains original and there is a reason why it is called and termed as original’. While we are talking about ‘original’, its not rocket science to decipher that, ‘Boogie Woogie’ was the original dance show which ruled the TV and almost every Indian’s heart in the nineties. Who can forget the spectacular chemistry between the impeccable trio of Javed Jaffrey, Naved Jaffrey and the inimitable Ravi Behl. Speaking of Ravi Behl, he faced the camera after a gap of around 20 years for the much-talked about series ‘The Night Manager’, which also starred Aditya Roy Kapur, Anil Kapoor and many other prestigious and established names.
OTTplay spoke exclusively to Ravi Behl in order to know about his life after the runaway success of ‘The Night Manager’ and much more. Over to you Ravi… or rather... as you would say... Boooo!
Ravi, looking back, while lockdown meant bad news for many, it actually gave you a turnaround in your career. Right?
Absolutely. I attribute ‘The Night Manager’ and ‘Breathe’ to the lockdown. What had happened was that, during the lockdown, I had become very lazy. And I just did not feel like shaving off my beard which had grown quite big in a span of around 20 days. Suddenly everyone at my house (my mother, my brother and my sister) said that this (bearded) look was suiting me very well. It was looking different. And at around that time, I had just decided that I wanted to start acting again. So, I had sent the feelers to a few people. That’s when I got to know that the folks who were making ‘The Night Manager’ were looking for a character. And the character was that of a very suave and sophisticated guy with a whiskey in his hand and royal blood.
The show’s director Sandeep Modi saw my (bearded) look and told me, “Sir, let's do this”. I said, “Done”. All this happened during the first wave.
So, for you, it was the ‘wave of success’!
Yes… The first wave (smiles).
Can you please tell us what ‘role’ did the following people play in your life:
He is such a dignified looking man. I still remember that famous salt and pepper hair look of his! My father used to look like him quite a bit. Omar was such a beautiful and striking personality. ‘Dignified gentleman’ is what I would like to term him as. We did a television series ‘The Far Pavilions’. But unfortunately, we did not have scenes together. But he had come on the day I was shooting, and he had asked about me. And when he got to know that I was with my sister (as I was very young), he had called my sister and told her, “Your brother has a great screen presence and is a good actor. You should encourage his (my) acting talent”.
For me, he is the first ever Dracula. Because he is so very synonymous with the character of Dracula. So much so that, whenever anyone thinks of Dracula, it's always Christopher Lee. The thing which was most striking was his baritone voice. When he said his lines, I just kept looking at him.
Oh! What a fabulous director. Let me tell you an interesting incident. What had happened was that they (the crew) had gotten a lot of UK actors to India to play the Indian roles as well. And the boy who was supposed to play the role of Nandu, fell ill. Immediately after that, at the last minute, they had held huge auditions at The Taj Hotel to find a replacement for the boy. By then, I had already done a reading (about that character). During the audition, there were around 100 kids sitting in the lobby, including me. After some time, they told me that I was selected for the said part. The show’s director was Peter Duffel. He was really a nice man. I think he passed away some years ago. In fact, to be honest, he actually had taken such a shine to me that he had come to our house to eat Indian food. I still remember he was eating rotis with a fork and a knife! He treated me like his own kid. He simply loved the way I used to act. He had once told me that, I will go a long way. He, in fact wanted to make this movie based on a book called ‘The Calcutta Kid’ and I was supposed to be the main guy in that. But unfortunately, he didn't get the rights. I will never forget the man ever.
A little birdie told me that, when you did ‘Boogie Woogie’, you weren’t too familiar with production. Then, how did ‘Boogie Woogie’ happen?
My father had passed away when I was young. The industry was not alien to me. Jaaved Jaffrey, Naved Jaffrey and I were all inspired by Michael Jackson and used to go to each other’s houses to practice dance to the tunes of Prince, John Travolta and others. One day, Naved suggested that, “Guys, since television is on the verge of booming, let’s do something in dance for TV”. We all thought that it was a very good idea and we started working towards it. And, fortunately and a little unfortunately, we both were producing it. (smiles) That time, I did not know much about production or rather nothing at all as I was only acting in films.
Was it tough to make the switch?
I, gradually realised that, production was not a child’s play at all. Gradually, production and hosting became my full-time job. And acting in films, very organically though, took a backseat. Going to directors and producers' places and meeting them for work, kind of faded away. But I had and still have no regrets. The reason being that, the kind of respectability that we've gotten through the show ‘Boogie Woogie’ is admirable.
Let me also ask you about your opinion/ take on the ongoing and ‘omnipresent’ dance reality shows?
It’s a fact that ‘Boogie Woogie’ was the first ever reality dance show in India. In the show, we had a totally different style, whereby, we never used to follow any script. We used to go with the flow of the episode. We also did not have the voting system at that time. Relatability, thus, became the key factor of our show. And that’s what made it extremely likeable.
To answer your question about the current trend of dance reality show, I feel that there are a lot of Indian dance styles that aren’t encouraged in many of the current dance reality shows. In ‘Boogie Woogie’, we used to have an entire episode called ‘The Classical’, which was solely dedicated to Indian dance forms. Besides that, we used to have ‘Lavni special’, ‘Bhangra special’ and stuff like that. These shows of today seem to be concentrating mostly on western dancing style. I really feel that they should encourage Indian dance forms as well.
You were a part of many hit films like ‘Narsimha’, ‘Ghulam E Mustafa’ and others. But not many know that you were also a part of the film called ‘Morcha’.
Oh yeah! I was a kid at that time. It was a multi starrer film… a very big film. The film had a lot of problems though.
Let’s talk about ‘The Night Manager’. Have you seen the original series?
I had seen it a long time ago. But, when I was offered the part (in the remake), I just breezed through it (the original show) as I did not want to get influenced by it. I wanted to hear it more from the director Sandeep’s point of view. I had asked a few questions to Sandeep and that’s when I got more clarity on my character.
How was it to face the camera after a long gap of 20 years?
In between, I had done a small cameo for ‘Breathe’.
Did you undergo any audition for ‘The Night Manager’?
Yes. The fact also remains that the producers and director were pleasantly surprised to see me and my audition.
What has been your biggest takeaway from ‘The Night Manager?
my biggest takeaway is that acting is my first love and it is something that I want to pursue. I am having a ball acting all over again. The sets, the lights, the scenes, and the call for ‘action’… it’s such a beautiful experience. The icing on the cake for ‘The Night Manager’ was that the casting was on-point.
What is it about ‘The Night Manager’ that attracted you the most?
I wanted people to know that I am back. Also, I wanted to go in for quality, rather than quantity.
Since you are so good in acting, sports and also martial arts, how about making a biopic on your life?
This is the first time somebody has asked me this question. I truly feel that this (biopic) is a bit too early. Abhi bahut kaam karna baaki hai. There are a lot many stories to be told. I would like people to rediscover Ravi Bahl again.
Not much is known about your personal life?
I am not married. And that is definitely out of choice. Main apne aap ko sambhaalooon, wahi bahut badi baat hai. (laughs). It’s not that I have not fallen in love. In fact, agar shaadi hoti, it would have been when I was like 27-28 years of age. I was madly in love, so was she. After a timespan of around 8 years, it became a long-distance relationship. But, for certain reasons, things did not work out. It was nobody’s fault as it was purely a matter of circumstance. But I am pretty chilled out now. At the same time, I am not shut off to the idea of marriage. If love happens, marriage is just a signature.
What next after ‘The Night Manager’?
Right now, I am in an open-minded state. Like I said, it’s going to be quality over quantity. The offers have already started coming in. There are a couple of things in the pipeline, for which the talks are on. Once I decide to do it, I will surely talk about it.
What are the parameters that you see when signing for a project?
I am looking for something that is author backed or some good primary major role, whereby, I could let my acting skills fly.
Will there ever be a ‘Boogie Woogie 2.0’?
As we speak, my fingers are crossed. All the three of us (Javed, Naved and me) are relevant. Let’s hope for the best. In fact, whenever we three meet, we have the look on our faces that, whenever we find time, let’s jump to the idea of restarting Boogie Woogie. It's definitely not shut out of our minds.