Chat show host Nikki Bedi talks to Ketan N Tanna
about Kabir Bedi, fidelity and critics
Chat show host Nikki Bedi talks to Ketan N Tanna
Just right for the idiot box
It is well past 10pm, and I am in Nikki Bedi’s bedroom at Empress Court building in Churchgate area. She is looking extremely colourful, but who would not in a red T-shirt, pink tights and, yes, flowery canvas shoes to match. She takes a long drag on her cigarette, daintily sips the drink she has been nursing, oh, for quite sometime now and appears lost in her thoughts about the eponymous Nikki Tonight chat show.
However, there is no hint of weariness, no deep creases that the pressure of hosting a chat show ought to have had. She is fresh and peppy, but I suppose success and fame do have strange effects on people. The chat show has surely done wonders for her-from being only wife of a has been film star she has become a TV personality overnight.
Nikki Bedi is currently fussing about the strain of living apart from her husband, Kabir Bedi, who is in Los Angeles shooting for the popular but seemingly interminable serial, The Bold and the Beautiful. Her blue grey eyes twinkle as she confidently chirps, “My major grouse is that I am separated from my husband. We have a pact that we will not be separated for more than six weeks at any given time. Our marriage is based on trust.”
Her cool confidence reminds me of Kabir Bedi’s roving eyes and his colourful past, and I succumb to the temptation of giving the lady a taste of her own medicine. Are you not afraid of his infidelity? Pat come the reply, “Our marriage is based on complete fidelity which, however, extends to behaving inappropriately with women. Fidelity does not mean you have to fâ€¦.them, but only that you have to behave in a certain way.”
Nikki bursts out laughing and counter questions, “Anyway, why should I worry about Kabir’s infidelity? He should be the one who should be worrying about me. I am 28, attractive and in the spotlight.” Mutual deterrent theory, I’d think.
But Nikki is correct when she says she is in the spotlight. Until the other day, she was referred to as either Kabir’s wife or granddaughter of industrialist Sumant Moolgaonkar. She was born and brought up in England (she still retains her British passport), and came to India only seven years back, found her roots (as they always do), took residence here and gradually drifted into the world of entertainment.
Her initial forays were definitely not the kind to set the small screen ablaze. And even Nikki wouldn’t be terribly upset if you do not happen to remember her cameos in serials like Mr. Yogi, Kab Tak Pukaroon and The Sword of Tipu Sultan. She even acted in Alyque Padmsee’s Othello.
It was during the rehearsals of Othello-she played Desdemona-that she met Kabir Bedi, who had Iago’s role. So strong were the vibes between the two that Nikki left her husband, Sunil Vijaykar, for a live-in relationship with Kabir, quite oblivious of the juicy details and stories dished out by the glossies. She says her parting with Sunil Vijaykar was something “she could not help as she had simply fallen for Kabir”, whom she married subsequently.
After grabbing headlines for the wrong reasons, Bedi got her first break when TV18 summoned her for a chat show audition. She was selected for what she calls the “glocal” (global and local) looks. Preens Bedi, “I was selected despite some pretty formidable competition. Of course, I had to my credit a 10-episode chat show on Channel IV in UK.” The experience there and the bohemian lifestyle provided just the fizz the producers were looking for but couldn’t get from the desi types.
It just took her couple of shows to have the audience drooling with delight or reeling under cultural shock. Some even expressed dismay at the mindless and titillating chatter. But the lady is herself quite thrilled with the kind of attention she has been attracting ever since the show went on the air on March 30. (The latest controversy on Mahatma Gandhi has apparently forced her to go in hiding. I simply couldn’t trace her).
She exults, “I have been stopped on the road by complete strangers. They give suggestions. My chat show is half an hour of light entertainment. People could be eating or ironing their clothes while watching but they will definitely be entertained. We are here to have fun and not harmer people on their beliefs or politics or even their wrong-doings.” In other words, just right for the idiot box.
But one reason why she has attracted attention-and flak- is that she never dithers in asking those risquÃ© questions. Some would say she even revels in them. Here are some samples-Russi Mody, are you as randy as most Parsis? Bappi Lahri, did you choose Samantha Fox for her voice or other qualities?
But contemptuous comments and condescending barbs do hurt her, never mind her pretence. Critic Amita Malik’s remarks have upset her terribly. She says, “People have hammered the show on the basis of first three episodes. Nikki Tonight is not a show for the critics or the intelligentsia. Amita Malik very rarely has praise for anybody. I do not even know how qualified she is as a critic, but I was insulted when she only harped on the first three shows that had similar (smut) references.”
Trenchant criticism has forced Nikki to do a rethink. “I know I am not perfect. I know I have to improve in many ways. But for God’s sake, I have just started. I will learn things along the way,” she says earnestly, sounding every bit a trainee employee who has just been fired for inefficiency.
Comparisons are odious but inevitable, and Nikki is learning to take them in her stride. She says candidly, “Look, many persons have compared my chat show with Karan Thapar’s. Any way, man and women have different antennae. If a man sits with another man for 10 minutes, they will very rarely get down to basics. On the other hand, we (women) will know within 10 minutes what colour panties a woman is wearing, what she fed her husband, whether her periods are heavy, whether she has enough sex with her husband.” She guffaws.
After completing 28 episodes of Nikki Tonight chat show, “Chatterina” Bedi, as Nikki is now called by fans and foes alike, will be soon flying to Los Angels to join her husband. She later intends returning to Bombay to can another 28 episodes. “Who knows, in the future you may see one Nikki Bedi chat show at 9.30 pm followed by another Bedi (alluding Bold and Beautiful). Critics will have a great time. Rubbishing one Bedi after another,” she says gleefully. Don’t these bold and beautiful types love courting controversies?
By Ketan Tanna