As a student at Harcourt Butler Senior Secondary School in Delhi, I was always on the fringes of the class. I was not exceptional at anything — be it studies or games. I tried my hand at basketball but was too short to be playing that game. I finally accepted that I would never be in the limelight for anything. It was not until 1972, when I was in class XI, that I did something exceptional that got me noticed by the students and teachers alike. I performed a mono act at the farewell party hosted by our class. My cousin used to perform an act which was hilarious and all I did was copy and embellish it a bit before performing it. I became an overnight sensation in school. It was then that I realised that acting was something I was good at and it was something that earned me a lot of appreciation. It was one of the first stepping stones of my life.
Another important turning point came when I joined Kirori Mal College and was encouraged to take up acting by my professor, Frank Thakurdass. I had given many performances by then and he insisted that I should not pursue anything but acting as a career. When I told him that I didn’t have the looks for it, he just brushed that aside and assured me that once I was on the stage, I was a star. It was because of his encouragement that I joined the National School of Drama (NSD) after my graduation to pursue a course in acting.
An important turning point — though a sad one — was the loss of my two-year-old son. His death really jolted me and at the same time taught me many things. It made me realise that nothing in life was permanent. If you can continue living, accomplishing the most mundane of chores after having lost the most precious person in your life, then you can actually live without anything that you consider essential.
(As told to Saimi Sattar)