Bollywood Villain Ranjeet’s Tell-All Interview With Bharathi S Pradhan | Timeless Superstars

Senior Journalist Bharathi S Pradhan pays a warm visit to the luxurious bungalow of veteran actor Ranjeet. The breezy evening witnesses a candid and heartwarming conversation as Ranjeet- The ruthless villain recalls the era of the 70s and 80s, followed by interesting anecdotes related to his personal and professional life. Ranjeet also gives a tour of his lavishly green terrace.

We call you Goli which is short for “Gopal Bedi”. So how Gopal Bedi became Ranjeet?

Gopal was my real name. I was a footballer. That was in Delhi. I used to play for my college (Hindu College). So, being a goalkeeper, everybody started calling me ‘Goli’. When I came to Bombay, I made friends and my name ‘Goli’ got stuck. I used to meet Feroz Khan, Sanjay Khan and Sunil Dutt regularly and Goli was my introduction. Dutt Sahab’s film Reshma Aur Shera was the first film I signed but Sawan Bhadon came out earlier. So, in Reshma Aur Shera, my charater’s name was Gopal. One day, I and Dutt Sahab were going to Jaisalmer, he just asked me, “Please get yourself a filmy name. I changed my name from Balraj to Sunil Dutt, Yusuf Khan changed to Dilip Kumar, Jatin changed to Rajesh Khanna.” So, he gave me such examples. I asked him to select a name for me. He was like an elder brother to me. He gave me a lot of love. I never got any break from him but I got a lot of love, that was more than a break. He asked me to pick a letter. Just like that, I picked ‘R’. While he was driving, he suggested the name ‘Ranjeet’. I was silent for a moment but then I said yes.

When we reached Jaisalmer, he told in his office that my name should be changed to Ranjeet in all publicity related work.

You said that you didn’t get a break from Dutt Sahab but you acted in Reshma Aur Shera.

But you won’t call it a break. It was a very small role. I played Waheeda Ji’s brother. Break is where you make an impact. Sawan Bhadon was also a small role. There also, I played Rekha’s brother. Break is like when you play a hero or main villain.

So, according to you, which was your breakthrough role that made you so famous?

My first film Sawan Bhadon. It was a hit. When you have a hit film, even small characters are noticed. So, that’s how you become popular. But then, I had a grey shade role in Sharmeelee. That was my third film. In that, I had some molestation scene. At that time, the press started mentioning me as “New Villain Arrives”.

So, with Sharmeelee, you were recognized as the villain who is famous for rape scenes!

Rape scenes or ruthless, sadist types. From Sharmeelee onwards, I was noticed in every film, even if I did small roles. I became ‘Wanted’. People started recognizing me and some pictures ran very well. I had not gone to any acting schools. I didn’t go to Pune Institute. When I came to Bombay, the boys and girls from Pune Institute were dominating everywhere. I don’t know but I never had any kind of fear about how to make a career in the industry. Being a footballer, I had a good physique. So, I used to wear those lace shirts, see-through shirts, or I would keep my buttons open and wear a locket or something. So, that became a style.

Nobody will say this, but you are 80 years old. You turned 80 in 2022. How do you feel at 80?

I don’t consider myself 80. As long as my limbs are moving, I am moving. I am grateful to God. I give credit to my parents. Vo sab maa ke haath ka khaya piya hai. I am strictly vegetarian. I don’t know the taste of mutton. I don’t smoke. Everything opposite my image of being a ruthless, crude villain.

I grow plants, vegetables on my terrace. I never feel lonely.

Nobody will believe that you are vegetarian and you married Nazee who is a non-vegetarian.

She told me after marriage that she was a staunch non-vegetarian. She told me that she used to catch the chicken in her toes and just break the neck. After marriage, I said in a fun way, “Darling, you sleep in other room, I’ll sleep in other room. Pta laga, raat ko mundi pakad ke..(laughs).”

But what a lovely wife. She gave me two beautiful children also. My son’s film (Govinda Naam Mera) was recently released. I feel so proud that he didn’t make me feel embarrassed or make me feel worried about his career. He signed this film on his own and never told me. He just told me, “I won’t let you down”.

All the parents launch their star kids in the movies. If one cannot afford, they take loans etc. So, I am very proud of my son (Jeeva). God has been very kind. My kids are very sorted.

You directed a film as well?

Yes, I produced and directed a film. I wrote 80% of it as well. There was a time when I had about 80 films on the floor. Be it small role or big role, but I had 80 films on the floor at the same time. I was working with all the top stars like Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Sunil Dutt, Raaj Kumar, Rishi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Feroz Khan, Sanjay Khan, Amitabh Bachchan. Most of my scenes were molestation, pulling sarees of heroines. I used to joke that I did one film where I pulled Moushami Chatterjee’s black saree and they could use the leftover footage in the next film. I was once fed up doing the same thing. I asked myself that for whom do I work so much. My mother had come to visit me. When she had to go back, I asked my driver to drop her at the airport. My father yelled at me and said that they don’t shift to Bombay because I don’t have time.

I always honor my commitment. But all the heroes, they used to have late-night drinking, while heroine was somewhere around like Reena Roy making parathas, Parveen Babi giving drinks, Moushami used to make fish. So, these actors used to pack up, come to my house and party. Meanwhile, I used to work day and night because I had to adjust my dates with all these actors. For the 9 am shift, they would come at 1 pm. So I started working in shifts.

I lost my father suddenly. We were playing darts, he had his dinner and I was making my schedule. He was in Mumbai with me. I managed to call him here. I had sold his house without his permission. I did the deal because otherwise they were not coming. And one evening, I just lost him within two hours. We were together, we had dinner. Then I went downstairs with my unit, discussing the schedule. I just went up get something. He was feeling gas problem, so I saw him having jal-jeera or something. Meanwhile, I called our family doctor and he checked his pulse. We took him to the hospital. Cutting short, after two hours, he was not there. Being a heart patient, he never wanted to live with any help. He was healthy looking otherwise.

I had to go to Hyderabad for my schedule. I never knew that I was gonna lose my father like this. I was full of energy but when I realized that my father is no more, I felt like a dry leaf. I was totally drained out. My father was never accused of anything. So, I didn’t want him to be indirectly accused by makers of the film that they suffered loss due to his death. So, I took a flight to Hyderabad at 6 in the morning. I was shooting a film with Shatrughan Sinha, Sridevi and Sunil Dutt. I used to howl in the make-up room and then I used to have chilled soda to wash my face. And then they used to knock at my door saying the shot is ready. I went and gave those villainous shots. In the evening, I came back to Mumbai. My relatives, who had come to Bombay from North, thought that I must have gone to some lawyer for will-related matter as I have two brothers and a younger sister. But I was happy that I finished my work. They later used my duplicate.

Coming back to your question, I started thinking that why am I working so much. I eat in car, I sleep in car. So, I stopped signing pictures. I am not a writer but whatever you see and experience in life, with little imagination, you cook up a story. So, that’s how I made storyline for a film. So, I finished that film. It was called Kiske Liye (later renamed and released as Kaarnama). I made this film with Vinod Khanna, Kimi Katkar, Farah and Amrish Puri. Kimi Katkar’s role was actually written for Nazee (my wife). She was supposed to do that role and that’s how I met her. Then my parents liked her. They wanted me to marry her. So, we preferred to get married and not continue working in films. She was happy working behind the camera, looking at finance etc. I made the film and I was happy.

Then in short span of time, I made another film- Gazab Tamasha. It had Rahul Roy and Anu Aggarwal.

So, did you think that you were doing better as an actor than a director?

No, no! I was working on my third film as a director. The script was also ready. But then, I got stuck in a project. I wanted to make a residential school with IB Curriculum at my farm. I didn’t want to make a resort or club. My grandfather was the principal of Hindu Sabha School in Punjab. Maybe, that’s why I wanted to build a good school with good sportsmen coming out of it. I did a lot of work on the project. I travelled and visited India’s every residential school. My land was agriculture land and I was planning to make it commercial. But I didn’t want the school to shut down later on with people objecting that I converted an agricultural land. I didn’t want anything wrong to be connected with me.

Till now, I get a lot of films. But because of this nudity, vulgarity and abusing, they call it real cinema and all that, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to connect myself with that kind of vulgarity.

You sank a lot of money in your project of residential school.

Yeah, but it’s fine. Though we had not started taking any admission process, we had inducted teachers etc. The good part is, I didn’t get my name spoiled into any controversy. I gave up the project completely.

Then you came back to acting?

I got a lot of offers from TV. First show was Baat Ban Jaye by Zee TV.

Around that time, I would have kicked the bucket. The day the 9/11 attack happened, I had gone there for shooting. I had to give a shot coming out of that building in the morning.

You were in the US when 9/11 happened?

Yes. And the shooting was kept in the morning. We were staying in New Jersey. I requested them that I will come a little late. It was destiny that I got saved. Otherwise, the shoot was in the morning. I was supposed to be there for the shot. The unit would have also died. They thanked me later on, for canceling the shoot. I got calls from India. They said, “You know what has happened? Switch on the TV.”

When you look back on the 70s and 80s, when the distributors always wanted a rape scene. And you were called ‘Ranjeet-The Rapist’ because you were pretty good at it on-screen. It was also so badly handled at the time, the whole concept of rape. You think it was not in a very good taste?

The filmmaking used to have a formula kind of a thing. A villain, a vamp, a hero and a heroine. Hero’s friend is a little comic. Heroines used to wear sarees. It was only choreographed. It’s not like we were performing rape actually.

The heroines, whom I used to molest on-screen, they were very comfortable with me in real life. I never get indulged in my roles. I treat it as work.

In society, has your on-screen image impacted you?

I have left a mark on them. Kapil Dev’s sister-in-law had come for some medical treatment. So, I have a habit of shaking hands and giving a side hug. So, she got a little uncomfortable. Kapil Dev then said to her, “Ye vaisa nahi hai jaisa tu samajhti hai.”

Once, a very interesting thing happened with me in Delhi. My daughter, Gigi, was doing fashion designing internship with popular fashion designer Manish Arora. As a father, I was scared to leave my beautiful, young and tall daughter in Delhi all alone. So, I used to go to Delhi every weekend. So that people should know that I am there and she is my daughter. So, she would take me out for dinner every night. So, most of the times, what happened, I used to walk in with her arm-in-arm. With high heels, she looks taller than me. So, people used to give me dirty looks, saying, “Buddha ho gaya hai, abi tak jawan ladkiyon ko leke ghoomta hai. Sharam nahi aati.”

But people loved me also. I got so much love and affection.

What keeps you going at the age of 80.

I never felt lonely in my life. Either I am painting, either I am gardening or I am sleeping. How the day passes, I never miss anything. Maybe, I am happy inside. I am not hunting for anything. I am not greedy also. I still get offers but I work only according to my mood. I like to be with the nature. I grow vegetables on my terrace.

Also Read: Faraaz- With A Genuine Muslim Hero, Hansal Mehta Just Changed The Game