Aron Bali is well-known for his work in recent shows Des Mei Nikkla Hogaa Chand and KumKum and films such as Veer-Zaara and Lagge Raho Munna Bhai. We’ve seen him portray the role of a grandfather and father on-screen, but do you know much about his off-screen family? We’ve seen him prove himself as a talented actor, but did you know he was initially interested in music? Well, read on and learn more about Aron Bali in this comprehensive PlanetBollywood.com interview!
While you've portrayed a wide variety of roles, it is your portrayal of father/grandfather-type figures for which people really admire you. We've seen Aron Bali as a father and grandfather on-screen…now, please tell us a little bit about your own family…
How did you get interested in acting? Was it something you always wanted to do, or did it happen by chance?
Basically, I was a singer—to be precise I was ok at singing and wanted to learn music at school when I was quite young—say when I was studying in class 5th, but my orthodox family did not allow me to take singing as a subject and I had to study Sanskrit, but my teacher Shri Prem, I still remember his name, always kept me in the lead singer in chorus songs competition between schools.
In the year 1960, an opera, named Sohni Mahiwal was being rehearsed and they needed a singer to do the role of Raqiba—husband of Sohni—who could sing in base (Mantra Saptak) and could also sing at high pitch (Tar Saptak) and my name was proposed and I happened to join them. So this was the beginning of my acting career on stage/theater. I was very good until we were rehearsing the singing part but the moment we were close to staging the show the acting part started along with singing and it was like a death warrant for me as I was to rehearse/act before many co-actors especially young, beautiful girls. I was so scared that I couldn’t perform anything and everybody laughed at me—even the director teased me. I got so disgusted and terrified that from the next day I stopped going for the rehearsal thinking acting is not my cup of tea—even I did not take phones of production people. Since I was not going for the rehearsals I started coming home on time. One day my eldest brother Yogendra Bali a great, established and a very refined stage actor of that time asked me, “how come you are at home so early?” So, I briefed my brother that during rehearsal everyone had teased me, including the director. So my brother told me that “beta aggar hunar seekhna hai to sub kuch sehna hoga. Aggar ustaad bhari mehfil mei jootey bhi maare to ankh nahi utthanaa—unki tere se koi dushmani nahi—voh tujhey ghad raha hai, sawaar raha hai, voh patthar ko nagina bana raha hai aur tera mull badha raha hai—unko samajhna hai aur unki izzad karni hai. Is liye aaj sham rehearsal par jaao aur jaa kar har cheez ko sunno dhyaan se samjho aur act karo.” Ye mera pehla guru mantra tha acting ki line ka jo mere badde bhaai ne diya.
I rung up Mr. Ram Avtar, a great architect, and my co-actor who asked me to come early so that he could tell me what my character is. I reached well in time and I met Ram Avtar Jee and Salima Raza [another co actor] and they both narrated me what character I am playing, what type of person he is, he is a godly man who loves his wife from the core of his heart and he has been praying 5 times a day to meet his wife after the marriage and how his wife ditches him, etc. etc. not only that what every word has the meaning and in how many ways you can modulate it/express it. When in the evening my rehearsal started—I still remember, though it is 48 years old happening, everyone cheered—it was like a standing ovation for me. The confidence built, that day, in me, still stands today and I follow the same Guru Mantra even today. I go through my script like a holy book, understand the meaning of each and every word and then perform and I think that is why I get love from all my well wishers/audience.
Though my professional acting carrier started in 1989-90, I am acting since 1961-62.
You played the role of a Sikh man in Des Mei Nikkla Hogaa Chand very naturally, and you're also portraying the role of a Sikh man in Sat Sri Akal. Do you belong to a Punjabi family, or did you take special language classes to prepare yourself for these roles?
I belong to a Punjabi family and I am proud to be Punjabi, but prior to that I am a proud Indian. I did not prepare specially for the role that I did in Des Mei Nikla Hoga Chand and now Sat Sri Akal. I just followed the same Guru Mantra which I detailed earlier. My simple way of working is do the things from the core of your heart, understand each and every word of the script, the environment—jise hum ‘mahol’ kahte hain, and speak the dialogues as you speak in your real life.
You've portrayed so many different types of roles, including that of a gangster in Viraasat to Harshwardhan Wadhawa in KumKum. Although, I'm sure you must have enjoyed doing all of these roles, if you had to select one role as your favorite, which one would it be and why?
I have portrayed not too many different roles but what ever came across I did, following the same Guru Mantra and enjoyed every word that I was given to speak. For a father all his kids are very close to his heart and it is very difficult to say which one he likes more and which one little less. I hope you understand my feeling. But one character of Taya Jee that I did in Lekh Tandon Jee’s serial Dil Dariya is immensely close to my heart as it changed my life altogether and I became a known actor, especially in Punjab, though it was appreciated by one and all in whole of India as it was telecast at Doordarshan at a time when no private channels were there and the viewership was tremendous. Not only that, this was the beginning of my career as a professional actor on television.
Is there any role that you have not yet had the chance to take on, which you really want to? In other words, do you have a dream role?
It is a very difficult question to answer. I just do not know what I can portray or what I want to do and what I can’t do. Basically this is director’s media—it is the director who knows which work I could do or which work he can get/dig out of me. I remember great Shri Hrishikesh Mukerjee Sahab, when I went to him for work, told me “Arun tumne bahut seedhe seedhe sharif aadmi ke role kiye hain—mujhe tumhari aankho mein shararat nazar aati hai. Main chahta hoon ke tum mere serial Ujale Ki Ore mein negative role karo” and I did the negative role where he gave me full rope and scope to do the character and he was very happy with my work. Kaash aise great director, creator industry ko chodd ke kabhi naa jaayein.
What factors do you consider before deciding to take on a new assignment—for example, do you look at who your co-stars will be, who the director is or is your decision only based on the type of role and the initial plot synopsis?
Basically it all depends on the storyline because ultimately we are in audio visual story telling media and story must touch the audience, then comes the director and the co-actors. Agar co-actors ek-doosre ko achchi taraha jaante hain to ek-doosre ko samajhne mein pareshani nahi hotee aur kaam achcha aur achche mahol mein hota hai.
There are so many reality shows on TV these days, and there is also growing discontent with television shows which never seem to end and just recycle old plot techniques of rebirth and plastic surgery. Do you think television soap operas are in danger of losing its audience?
Good that there are so many reality shows and these shows are really bringing lot of hidden talent/ talented actors, singers, dancers and above all lot of work to lot of people. Television is a very big industry and it will never ever lose its audience. Lots of technical, professional and learned people are involved and their job is to check the pulse of the audience and the moment they smell something like that they will immediately give what the audience want.
Films and television shows have a lot of impact on people…how ethical do you think it is for TV shows to continuously show men with multiple wives on-screen…
I agree that films and television shows have a lot of impact on people. It all depends how you take these things. The media shows the audience the facts which might have been hidden from them in their serials/films with a clear cut thinking that people will learn from it and not get themselves trapped into it. You should see “ke jo gallat kaam karte hain unkaa nateeja bhi buraa hota hai.” The ultimate conclusion is that from such shows either you learn from them or jump into that situation and enjoy the jarring music of continuous tension.
Why do you think television scriptwriters fail to reinvent themselves?
Right question to a wrong person. Please put this question to a scriptwriter he or she may be able to answer—as far as I know it is very easy to criticize a writer but when it comes to writing on your own you find it very difficult to write even two lines. Scriptwriters show us the path and if actor is good he moulds it to the benefit of the show as a whole.
Who are some of the directors you really enjoy working with, and what is it about their style of direction that you admire?
A very difficult question—because this media is basically director’s media and for me all directors are like gurus and if I leave one name I will not be doing a right thing.
Are there any co-stars you enjoy working with, in particular?
I enjoy working with one and all because I am crystal clear that I can not act alone—without the help of my co-actors I am a big zero, so I love every one.
While it is your appearance in television shows which has given you widespread popularity, you've also acted in quite a few films, recently including Veer-Zaara (2004) and Lage Raho Munna Bhaai (2006). Please tell us a bit about your experiences in Bollywood and how they are similar and/or different to your experiences in television. For example, I imagine that films are easier than television shows, since you have fewer lines and more time to shoot the film, unlike in television when you shoot an entire episode per day!
Basically kaam mein maza aana chahiye. Once you enjoy your work it will not matter whether it is film or TV serial. Ye profession mohabbat ka profession hai aur jab tak isse mohabbat se naa karo mazaa nahin aayega aur bahut jaldi audience ko pataa chal jaayega.
You've been in the world of entertainment since the 1990s, and the industry has changed quite a lot since then. Tell us about some of the major changes you have noticed…the evolution of television and films since you entered into the field.
Technical changes have happened and are happening every day—more sophisticated equipments are coming and they have made the things more easier and beautiful but as far as acting is concerned it has to be done from within.
Even though actresses like Gracy Singh and Vidya Balan and actors such as Shahrukh Khan have successfully made the transition from TV to films, there is still a misconception that television stars don't make good Bollywood stars…why do you think this is so? Do you think that perhaps directors are hesitant to sign a TV star because the audience might not be able to disassociate them with their on-screen television character?
It is a matter of chance—if one gets the right chance at the right time, he reaches where the actors you have mentioned have reached." Acting to acting hai bhaai is mein chotaa pardaa kyaa aur badda pardaa kyaa” and above all it is only your luck which takes where you have to reach.
So many people want to become actors and actresses in India—in fact very young people are entering into the field, sometimes people who have just completed high school and who decide to jeopardize their college studies—what advice do you have for aspiring actors and actresses? Do you have any tips you would like to share which you think might make aspiring actors' and actresses' entrance into showbiz easier?
I am happy that young people are thinking of becoming actors and actresses and this is a very big industry and everyone is welcome—age no bar—per ye baddi discipline kee line hai, jitni mushkil hai aur utni hee aassan hai. Baaki aapke bhagya par hai—yahaan waqt aur bhagya bahut important role play kartaa hai. Yahaan koi bhi Amitabh Bachchan ho sakta hai aur koi bhi Shahrukh Khan ho sakta hai. Bas naseeb saath honaa chahiye.
Lastly, please tell us a little bit about your forthcoming assignments.
My forthcoming film is Sat Sri Akal ek bahut hee dil ko choone wali film, sanskaaron se bhari, ishwar se juddi with excellent music which will be remembered for years to come. It is a social family drama where the family has faith in Waheguru, when the family is happy they pray for him and whenever they are in distress. The family fully believes in “tera bhana mitha laage.” I can’t reveal the story but I only can assure the viewers that they will be proud to see this film and the public/viewers, shradha se nat-mastak ho jaayenge. Yeh film July yah maximum August 2008 tak release ho jaayegi.
Mata Tripra Ji Charitable Trust, Chandigarh is producing the film, and Arvinder Deep Singh (Kittu) and Dr. Bhupinder Singh Ji Bhoop, dono ne voluntarily is project ko pyar se seencha hai aur Waheguru Ji ne chaaha to unhe isska phal bhi bahut achcha milega. Iss film ko badi shradha se banaya gaya aur iss mein jitney bhi helping hand the vo sub volunteer the jinhone din ko din nahin samjha aur raat ko raat–apne chalet karo baar chod ke vo iss film mein aise jutt gaye jaise koi gur-purav ke function ko kaamyaab banana mein jutt jaata hai. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember the names of everyone—jinke yyad hain vo hain Lalli, Bawa, Manu, Jassi, Japan, Gavi, Pammi. I want to ask forgiveness in advance because there were a lot of volunteers and I don’t remember all of the names—Balwinder, Neeti, Bawi, Rabbi, Manpreet and Raahat.
Isme mere co- actors hain Kimmi Verma, Doly Mihnas, Manpreet Singh, Manmeet Singh, Neelu Kohli, Nirmal Rishi, Vivek Shouque, Avtar Gill,Son Preet aur ek ubharti nayi adakaara Pooja Tandon, aur sabse oopar aur mera sabse pyara Sachoo. Agar main kisi actor ka naam bhool jaoo to advance mein maafi. Is film ka Screenplay aur dialogue Vijay Tandon ji ne likhe hain jo khud ek bade achche kalakar hain, National Award Winner producer hain aur purani Punjabi filimo ke hero rahe hain.
Sat Sri Akal ki direction ki kamaan Kamal Sahni Saheb ke hath main thee aur camera work Indrjeet Singh Bansal ji ke hath main jinhon ne ek ek frame ko paint kar diya jub aap log dekhenge tou mehsoos karenge ke Punjabi film ka camera work itna achcha ho sakta hai. Agar main make up artist Bharti Ji ka naam na loo toh mujhse bahoot badi gustakhi ho jaayegi kyoun ki mujhe Sardar banane waale, meri sir par pagiddi sajane waale wahi the aur unke baghair main sardaar kam aur saadhu zyaada lagtaa.
Iska music jo is film ki saflata ka, major kaaran hoga, diya hai, Ravinder Singh Ji ne jinki yeh pehli film hai. Aap jab geet aur shabd sunege tou aapko lagega ke Ravinder ne kitni lagan se, kitni shradha se iss film ke music ko sajaya hai. Iss film mein teen shabad tou jagjitsingh jee ne gaaye hain aur unke alava jinhon ne is film ke geeton ko aavaaz di hai, vo hain Alka Yagnik, Kavita Krishnamoorthy, Sunidhi Chauhan, Abhijeet, Richa Sharma aur Krishna ji.
Meri interview adhoori rah jaayegi agar maine Satbir Singh Ji ka naam na liya–vo iss film ke shock-absorber the–ek vo chehra jo hamesha muskarate nazar aaya.
Iske baad meri doosri film aa rahi hai Apni Boli Apna Des being directed by Ravinder Peepat. Inderjit Singh Bansal will be handling the camera, Vijay Tandon has scripted it, and Aman Heiyer has composed the music. It includes actors like popular and most established singer Sarbjeet Singh Cheema, Sudesh Lahiri, Raj Babbar, Sunita Dheer, Shweta Tiwari, Gughee, Gick Grewal and Vijay Tandon. India portion shoot ho chukka hai ab England mein shooting hai aur upparwaale ki mehar hui to yeh film September/October tak release honi chaahiye.
Amanda Sodhi is VP of Business Development and a Staff Writer for PlanetBollywood.com. She also writes for NRI Today (www.nritoday.net). To learn more about Amanda, visit http://muweb.marymount.edu/~a0s81566.
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