Ravi Behl gained popularity as a household name during the late 90s and early 2000s due to his appearance on the dance show Boogie Woogie. He was part of a trio, flanked by brothers Jaaved Jaaferi and Naved Jaffery, and his quick-witted humor and his skills as a dancer made the show a resounding success. However, even before his appearance on Boogie Woogie, Ravi had already acted in blockbusters such as Narsimha, Dalal, and Agni Sakshi in the 90s. Despite his initial success, his acting career never really took off. In this week’s interview, Ravi reflects on all his hits and misses. He also reveals how heartbreak led him to never marry and how he hopes to make a comeback as an actor with the OTT show The Night Manager. Read on for more.

You have extensive experience in the international film industry as evidenced by your involvement in several successful productions over the years. Among these, your role in the making of “The Far Pavilions” stands out, a film that saw the participation of important actors such as Omar Sharif, Christopher Lee and Jennifer Kendall, known for being the partner of Shashi Kapoor. But The Night Manager still represents another important milestone in your career.

I’ve never played a scene with Jennifer. My scene was with Omar Sharif, Christopher Lee and Saeed Jaffrey. They were all important characters to me. Christopher Lee played Dracula and we had grown up admiring them. The director of the series, Peter Duffell, was very good. I read about the audition, and as they were looking for a lot of Indian actors, even those who lived in the UK, I attended. Unfortunately, the actor originally cast to play the Prince fell ill, so we had to find someone else. I auditioned and in the end they chose me. Also, I was lucky enough to meet Steven Spielberg on set. Amy Irving, who was also in the cast, was married to him at the time. When Spielberg came looking for her, Amy took my hand and introduced me saying “you have to meet this Indian actor”. Initially the cast and crew of The Far Pavilions were concerned that I wasn’t up to the role, but eventually we all became friends. I’m still looking for the Polaroids we took during the shoot, I’ll post them on Instagram one day.

steven spielberg

There’s an interesting story at the back of you getting cast for Morchha (1980) as smartly. Can you share that?
As a child, Bruce Lee was a huge influence on me and my friends. There was a karate teacher named Suresh at our school, and Naved, Jaaved and I were all interested in learning karate from him. I found that I had a natural talent for it, and my instructor would often give me extra training after class because of my skills. I even bought a pair of nunchakus from a man in our apartment building who was inspired by Bruce Lee. It was just a hobby, but I would spend hours practicing with them every day.

One day, the veteran director Ravikant Nagaich, who was making a film with my father at the time, spotted me doing karate and using the nunchakus. He was impressed and asked if I would be interested in appearing in a movie. My mother agreed, but only on the condition that my training would not suffer. I promised her that it wouldn’t and she went ahead with the opportunity to act in the film.

As a child, I was fearless and willing to take risks, so I didn’t hesitate to try something new like acting. It was an exciting experience, and it all started with my love for karate and Bruce Lee.

Your elder sister Geeta had moreover forayed into showing by the time you debuted as a child artiste in Morchha.

“Positive. She had completed Main Tulsi Tere Angan Ki. And then she did Do Premee with Rishi Kapoor ji. But if I guess correctly, I guess he was the main actor in our family. (laughs)”

What were given right here first, the eagerness for martial arts or the eagerness for dance? How have the two influenced each and every other?

I could tell it was a whole. I was influenced by the world I lived in, Bandra. We had those events and there was a lot of dancing going on. There were many dancers. From there we have cultivated the passion. Music and dance have become our hobbies. Bruce Lee arrived around the same time. We danced indoors for exercise. Then Michael Jackson came along and I was blown away. Naved, Jaaved and I all had a passion for dance. Jaaved was a John Travolta type. But I was more like Michael Jackson. We have never taken lessons or attended dance schools. We used to dance at home.

Naved, Jaaved and I, all had a zeal for dance

Whether it’s martial arts or dance, you need to have timing, grace and flexibility. Martial arts have helped me in my flexibility. Do a split, do a roundhouse kick. Also, choreography is very important in both practices. Even if you’re doing an action sequence, you’re choreographing the sequence. The punch will come from here, you can block it, you can step back. Do you understand what I mean? That’s why I think dance and action are very similar in many ways. If you’re good at one, you’re probably good at the other.

After hits like Narsimha, Agni Sakshi and Dalal, your occupation used to be as soon as on a most sensible. What halted the expansion as an actor? Was once it Boogie Woogie? Did the show and its production distract you?

You hit the mark. I guess my most notable film was Agni Sakshi. However, all three movies you mentioned were smash hits. It could be called inexperience. When you are young, we didn’t have much information in those days. People weren’t available to provide that kind of advice. And of course, with God’s blessing, Boogie Woogie happened. All right. Naved and I have been friends since school. One day he came to me. My work machine had already started. Naved was sitting at home too and I told him, “Dude, let’s do something.” Television was just getting started in those days. So we came up with the idea of doing a dance show because it hadn’t been done in India yet. Naved agreed and I was excited and we got the show. However, I didn’t know anything about production, but we decided to do Boogie Woogie together. I was used to acting, I didn’t know anything about production. I thought, let’s make more money. There is security. In those days, there was only cinema or nothing. However, when I started, I realized that manufacturing is a full time job. Especially when I was learning. It has been a learning process. I was learning while working and it took up most of my time. And at some point, meeting people and hearing the scripts just stopped. You are right. Boogie Woogie started and I totally immersed myself in that.

Boogie Woogie began and I were given utterly immersed in that

How do you look once more at the chemistry and camaraderie between Jaaved, Naved and in addition you on Boogie Woogie? Your candour as a group in reality added to the show’s popularity.

Naved or Jaaved would say something and I could pick up from there. I could say something and they could take it from there. It was just us. That world was so enthralling and so seductive. It was amazing. It was a huge show. In fact, the respect we got from that show is tremendous. I’m always grateful that Boogie Woogie happened to me. It was simply a transition that happened in my career. It has given a lot of people a platform. During our events, we didn’t have a platform to showcase our talent. Through our efforts on Boogie Woogie, we have been able to create an opportunity, for an ordinary man to take the stage and perform. It was a great service.

You return from a film family. Your father used to be as soon as a filmmaker. You’ll have spotted production, film gadgets and actors firsthand.

Unfortunately, I was 11 when my father died. So I haven’t actually seen that glamorous side of the business. He was going through many difficulties. He was already gone by the time I started figuring things out.

After your father passed away, did you assume responsibility of being the individual of the house and be the breadwinner? Did that impact your resolution to head for the security of producing a TV show over the uncertainty of existence as an actor?

You seem to be reading my mind. I just liked acting. But yeah, that was just part of my life. It was also for the family. I started earning money and putting bread on the table. I have worked for a living since I was 11 years old. And that’s why after so many years, when Boogie Woogie was done, I didn’t do anything for the next 10 years. I realized I never had a childhood. I decided I didn’t want to do anything. It was like I went into hibernation for 10 years. I didn’t want to move a muscle. This is why I got that big injury after Boogie Woogie.

Ravi-Behl-My-Boogie Woogie

Up to now you’ve used an overly extraordinary adage to speak about your courting status and the fact that you may well be unmarried. You’ve mentioned, ‘dhoodh ka jala chaas bhi foonk kar peeta hai’. What went mistaken?

I guess you only fall in love once in your life, twice if you’re very lucky. I’m talking about true love. And I was in love, but certain problems couldn’t be solved. Don’t let my cheerfulness and funny attitude fool you, I’m a very emotional person and it hurt me a lot. This took me a long time to recover. It was a long distance relationship and it affected me deeply. My intentions were honorable, his intentions were honorable, but somewhere along the way, for some reason, nothing happened. After that relationship I felt very confused. What if the next relationship doesn’t work out? It’s not the way one should think, but it’s what happened to me. I had become like Majnu.

Ravi-Behl-I had transform like Majnu

How did you end up getting cast in The Night time Manager?

Let me pick up where we left off. After I finished with Boogie Woogie, 10 years have passed. And before that, I hadn’t acted for about 20 years. I’d done little cameos for friends, I’d made a brief appearance in a web series. But this time it’s a full-fledged role, as an actor. I am returning after 20 years. There was a lot of excitement. And when I first heard about the role, I was thrilled because I love the character. The character is very smart and neat. He’s quite a cheeky guy, almost a reckless Casanova but a gentleman nonetheless. The character excited me a lot.

The show was also done in English. I saw it two or three years ago. But it was very boring. I didn’t want to see him again because I didn’t want to be influenced by that character and the gentleman’s acting. He did a great job, but I wanted to play it my way.

Your co-stars Anil Kapoor and Saswata Chatterjee have been singing hosannas for you. Anil Kapoor equated you to Brando.

I swear to God, I was so moved. All those guys including Aditya (Roy Kapur) had never seen me act. I met Mr. AK (Anil Kapoor) after 20-30 years. He was so moving and touching when everyone said, “You’re doing a great job.” I’m blushing as I say this. When such a great actor like Mr. AK sits you down and then tells you that you are acting well, it is very encouraging.

How numerous this look of yours, with the salt and pepper hair and the beard-mustache, influenced your casting?

I would say that it played an important role. The merit of this aspect is to be attributed to the lockdown. I had a goatee beard, very light. During the lockdown I went through many phases and one day I said: “I don’t want to shave. I’m letting my beard grow.” Then one day, I trimmed it a bit and suddenly everyone at home, my sister, my brother, my mother said, “This beard is damn good.” When I decided to act, I met my close friend Mukesh Chhabra and he said to me, “Sir! Come and have a coffee with me”. When he saw me, the first thing he said was, “I agree with you, but do me a favor. Don’t touch this beard. It’s a very different look. People have an idea about you from Narsimha, Agni Sakshi, Dalal and Boogie Woogie. This look brings out something completely different.”

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