Veteran Indian actor Kabir Bedi, who has an extensive body of work in Italy including all-time favorite television series “Sandokan,” was conferred a lifetime achievement award at Venice on Saturday.
Bedi was presented with the Filming Italy Movie Lifetime Achievement Award at the the Italian Pavilion working space, created by Cinecittà, as part of an initiative by the Directorate General for Cinema and Audiovisual (DGCA) of Italy’s Ministry of Culture (MiC). The award was presented by producer and actor Tiziana Rocca and Roberto Stabile, advisor for internationalization and head of DGCA-MiC special projects at Cinecittà.
The actor, who has served as an unofficial ambassador for Indo-Italian relations for some four decades, said during his acceptance speech, “I have tried to make people in Italy focus on India for many years, and people in India focus on Italy for many years.”
“Since the time of ‘Sandokan,’ I’ve done over six major series in Italy and not many people realize that really Bollywood and Hollywood are a far lesser part of my life than my career in Italy,” Bedi added.
Bedi’s early hits in Bollywood include “Kuchhe Dhaage” (1973), “Ishk Ishk Ishk” (1974) and “Nagin” (1976). “I realized very quickly that unless I wanted to be a singing dancing star, I could not be a leading man in Bollywood. So I knew I had to reach out for a career abroad. And it was the Italians that gave me the opportunity to come to Italy by giving me this iconic role of Sandokan,” Bedi said.
Based on novels by Emilio Salgari, featuring the dashing pirate hero Sandokan who fought against the British colonisers, the television series began in 1976 and fired the Italian popular imagination, gathering a record 34% audience share. Several subsequent series and films revolving around the character followed.
Bedi’s career in the U.S. includes a long run on “The Bold and the Beautiful” and roles in “Dynasty,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “Hunter,” “Knight Rider” and “Highlander: The Series.” He played the lead in “The Thief of Baghdad” (1978), also had prominent roles in “Ashanti” (1979) and James Bond film “Octopussy” (1983).
The actor maintained his roots in India and returned there with a massive hit in Bollywood film “Khoon Bhari Maang” (1988), and continues a prolific career in that industry.
In 2021, Bedi had another hit with his autobiography “Stories I Must Tell: The Emotional Life of an Actor,” a bestseller in both India and Italy. On Friday, Bedi was honored with the Diva & Donna book of the year award at Venice, for the Italian translation of the book.
“As an actor, I would like to expand into other kinds of roles with great power. Because I still have that burning desire to express my total potential as an actor in other ways. And once you set that intention in your mind, the universe conspires to make it happen,” Bedi told Variety.
“I look forward to moving beyond just the image of Sandokan and the films that followed them, because while that’s been central to my life, the world has changed and we must change with it,” Bedi added. “I am reinventing myself both as an actor, and as a producer/presenter of documentaries that bridge East and West. Now as an author too, with the success of my autobiography in English and Italian.”