drives up in his burgundy BMW, offering us a lift from Bandra to
Dungheap Central, or Saki Naka, if we must be politically correct. Our
subject, on the other hand, is anything but. "Imagine how I feel driving
down here every day," jokes the Malabar Hill loyalist. "Once a townie,
always a townie."
Dressed in blue jeans and a white
shirt that stretches across his portly frame, the actor is chatty and
comfortable in his skin. After all, all the saas-bahus of the country
love him, and who wouldn't feel smug with a formidable fan-base?
The man who played Jai Walia in Kasamh Se and now plays Ram Kapoor in Bade Achhe Lagte Hain
is riding a wave of popularity that he didn't enjoy when he had
six-pack abs. So what makes a man who is touching 40 and genially rotund
such a heartthrob with housewives? He is television's unlikely Mr
Darcy, a podgy but stately, imperfect hero that women would hold dear as
he fights his way through a quagmire of complex household dilemmas
every night. It's easy to see the appeal though. He is disarmingly
candid and good-humoured, and, as we see later, single-handedly raises
the IQ on an Ekta Kapoor set.
In his plush ride, the
"technogeek" chain-smokes as he chats about his love for cars and
gadgets. He did make one attempt to quit smoking, he confesses, and
lasted for four months. Now it's back to 40 a day. "I'm famous for my
ability to memorize dialogue. I can learn a page in a minute. When I
quit, my memory was shot!"
We reach the studio, which takes
its inspiration from shanty town-chic. He is fussed over by his Man
Friday Mehboob, who serves us coffee as Ram makes his presence felt by
chatting loudly with co-actors and his other "stooges". Clearly, the
star is on the set.
Ekta Kapoor's blue-eyed boy spreads his
generous frame on the settee for the chat. So when did he go from fit
to... "You mean from six-pack abs to a keg?" he says, laughing. Er, yes.
He says, "I'm very comfortable with myself. In a writers' meeting, Ekta
asked me, 'Ram, is it okay if we use your weight?' The writers were
apprehensive. I said that if you do it, do it all the way. Don't be
subtle about it. You can't take yourself too seriously, it's important
to poke fun at yourself. Once in a while, it is great to show your
He explains it works because this is the
first time it has happened on TV. He says, "I've set a new trend of a
fat hero, it's the shock value. People are relating to it, iss desh mein
hota hai. Not every man has a six pack! A pot belly is common, hota
Ram says though Kasamh Se made him a household name, it
also took a toll on him. The crazy schedules meant that he slept and ate
at odd hours and gained weight. Bani is still slim, you point out...
"She's not a Kapoor!" he says, laughing. "My father is way bigger than
me. Raj Kapoor, Shammi, Rishi... should I go on?"
He adds it's
not his problem. It's the director's job to worry about an actor's
looks. If you've landed the role, they're fine with the package. "I've
landed roles in Karan Johar's Student of the Year and other films. Being
a certain size lands you a certain kind of role," he says.
While his wife Gautami Gadgil worries about his smoking and his health,
they had decided some time ago that they will check into a spa abroad
for a few weeks. But then the continuity of his films would've gone for a
His roundness though hasn't affected his popularity with the
women. He makes a shocking revelation, "Lots of mothers send pictures
of their daughters to me saying that they are single. What am I to do?
Take a second wife?"
Ram is now unmindful of the temptations, as he says he is past that
phase. We hear that he was a bit of a playboy in his single days... "A
'bit' is an understatement," he says, laughing. "I was an a**hole. But
women have a thing for bad men. They get bitten once, bitten twice, but
they never learn! I married at the right time at 30, and had my daughter
at 33, when I was ready."
Gautami finally tamed the Casanova
in him. She wasn't his "type - a woman who partied, drank, etc." But
"Miss Goody Two-shoes" and him became confidantes and he realised he
can't mess with her. "But I asked myself would she make a better
mother?" he says. You point out that this is hypocritical behaviour...
"I agree," he says. "But if I deny it, I would be even more
hypocritical." But he chose wisely, he says, which helped him when the
balance of power changed. "You won't believe it, but for the first two
years of our marriage I lived off my wife. Like every selfrespecting
man, I hated it."
Patriarch On The Set
We enter the purple nightmare that is his home in the serial. Ram slips
into the role of the patriarch even on the set as he jokes with
everyone. He introduces us to his co-star Eva Grover - "Have you seen a
prettier mother on TV? But her top floor is empty..."
As we gasp, Eva pouts. "I may be weird but my top floor is not empty!"
Ram guffaws. When Eva takes a dig at him about his smoking, he simply sits on her.
When the squealing stops, he says that today he is in a position in the
industry to command absolute freedom. "You can have fun when you reach
the top. Talent is important but you also need to be confident,
professional and ethical to succeed. No one wants to work with a
difficult star. I want to be the nice guy."