"Ruby Bhatia showed more skin during the Champions Trophy than I did in the World Cup"

Mandira Bedi had the long Shanti, the evergreen Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and the never ending Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi to her noteworthy credit, but she was not a satisfied lady.

She wanted to do something big and be talked about. The Max cricket offer to compere the World Cup 2003 landed into her lap, and she grabbed it with both hands. Today, she is the talk of the town! Naturally she is smiling from ear to ear. Shows, functions, interviews, film-offers... she is jet-setting all over the place. A classic case of 'she came, she saw, she conquered...'

Mandira has been shooting for
Kyunki... till 8.30 pm when Vickey Lalwani called her for an appointment, but she agreed to see him rightaway. "No problem. I am always a bundle of energy. Come along to my new home in Bandra,," she says. Excerpts from a freewheeling conversation with the Extraa Innings hottie.


Retrace. How did 'Extraa Innings' happen?

I have always been a cricket buff. I had flown down to Sri Lanka to watch some cricket. I know quite a few people in Sri Lanka. All my shows have done exceedingly well there. The people from Sony saw me there. When I told them that I had come to watch cricket, they were surprised that love for the game had brought a woman from India all the way to Sri Lanka. They put me at the back of their mind from that time, I guess.

A few days later, I was at a press conference at the Sony office for the Papa Ban Gaye Hero show. Someone from Max asked me to come over into their section. I was asked 30 questions on cricket. I answered 23 correctly. Some days later, I was auditioned once again. A month later, I was on. I badly wanted this project.


If I am not mistaken, you showed your cards to a tarot card reader?

Yes, I had my cards read by the tarot card reader Maa Prem Ritambhara. I am a very superstitious person. But Maa is an accurate predictor. We asked her many times about the India-Australia final, but everytime she predicted an Australia victory. Maa predicted that this World Cup compering would be a big breakthrough for me. And she was proved right in the first six or seven days of the tournament!

Everybody was talking about me more than the game! Before the Cup, I was a known face on the road but not to this extent. Today, almost every Tom, Dick and Harry stop in their tracks when they see me. The tournament has opened a lot of new doors for me. Film offers are coming in heaps.


Was it easy? Or hectic?

Easy? Are you kidding? When I signed on, I had a totally different picture of what it would be like. I figured I'd do my bit in the studio, then head back to the hotel, go back to the studio again for a bit. It was nothing like that. I had to be up at 5.00 am and be ready for the car which would come to fetch me at 6.45 am.

From 7 am to 7.30 am every day, the director would brief us. Then from 8 am to 10 am, we were on without a break. After 10 am, we used to have a heavy breakfast. Thereafter, we had to remain in the studio almost throughout the day. It could rain any moment, a wicket could fall anytime, we had to be ready. Hectic alright, but the entire stint was a learning curve for me. This one has broadened my horizon, changed my outlook towards life, and brought a new dimension in my body language.

"Maa Prem Ritambhara predicted that this World Cup compering would be a big breakthrough for me. And she was proved right in the first six or seven days of the tournament!"

What made you click?

You tell me! I really don't know. All I can say is that the Max trick to rope in more women to see the tournament worked. The objective of putting me right in front of, or between, those men was just that. And look at the extent to which the ruse clicked. A recent survey has revealed that 46 per cent of the viewers were females.


Picture courtesy The Tribune
"The Max trick to rope in more women to see the tournament worked. The objective of putting me right in front of, or between, those men was just that"

Didn't your costumes play a big role?

Oh God! I don't know why so much is still being spoken about my costumes. If you notice, I wore a saree in all the India matches. Coming to the other fixtures, I just wore what I wear in my day-to-day life. What you saw on television is the usual stuff I wear even otherwise. It was not imposed on me by Max, nor I had deliberately worn it to attract attention.

Today, virtually every educated and modern girl dresses up smartly. Most importantly, no attire worn by me was brazen. There are so many females in our film and telly world who wear stuff which send shock waves of higher intensity. Ruby Bhatia who compered the Champions Trophy in Colombo showed more skin than I did in the World Cup. Why single me out?

Which commentator's company did you enjoy the most?

Tony Greig. He was knowledgable as well as humorous. Cricket is sport as well as entertainment. The idea of Max, therefore, was to keep it light.

Did you enjoy the SMS messages on you?

Surely not. When I saw the first one, I was terribly upset. But then I realised that I had come into limelight. This was the time to be positive, not negative. So dismissing them, I moved on. They are circulating even now. Just the other day, a friend sent me one such.


Have you signed a Tamil film?

Thank god that you asked me this question. I have not signed Parthipan's film Lingam. I wish that the sections of media who have reported this had checked with me.

After the competition was over, I came back to India. Parthipan sent me an air-ticket for Chennai where I was supposed to meet him. I had no qualms about exploring on what I was being offered. I have no inhibitions on working down South. Forget the song-n-dance in those films which have to be introduced for commercial purposes, but don't forget that those guys make the most sensitive and meaningful cinema. It's much more real than the cinema here in Mumbai. The directors down south dwelve deeper into the human psyche.

However, Parthipan's offer did not excite me at all. The role had hardly any substance; it was not having to move down South with bag-n-baggage. He was supposed to play the lead opposite two heroines and he wanted me as one of those. He even said that he would like to click some pictures of mine to judge the look I would portray. But I politely turned down the offer.

Within no time, it was splashed left, right and centre that I was doing Lingam. I rang up to ask him and he clarified that he had told a section of the press that he was considering me for one of the female leads. Apparently, some other section of the press must have distorted the original version to create sensationilism. Even Maddy ( R.Madhavan) sent me a message asking whether I was doing Lingam.

Frankly, I haven't signed any film as yet. I am contemplating certain offers which look meaty. But I am not in a hurry.


Will you leave television if films envelop you?

Never. Television has given me whatever I have right now. All those actors who leave television and take to Bollywood at the first opportunity are committing a big mistake. Unlike films, there is consistency in television.

"Most importantly, no attire worn by me was brazen. There are so many females in our film and even telly world who wear stuff which send shock waves of higher intensity"

Mandira with Shekhar Suman in a television serial

There were rumours about Yuvraj Singh and you...

(interrupts) The garbage in this country is increasing. The press is always on the lookout for a male and female talking to each other. The moment they spot it, the next day it's a page three item. I am not denying that Yuvraj is a friend. I have known hm for a couple of years now. In fact, we are buddies and he even shares his secrets with me. Can't a man and woman be just friends? Give me a break!


What is this controversy about the Sikh community being upset with you because of your dogs?

Bombay Times came down to ask me questions. They wanted to know what my dogs were called. For fun, I told them that one was 'Ruger Bedi' named after me and the other one was 'Buster Kaushal' (named after my husband Raj Kaushal). Actually, their names are just Ruger and Buster.

Someone from Delhi in the Gurdwara community picked it up and wanted to sue me for naming my dog as Bedi. Our Guru Nanakji was the first Bedi. Anyway, now the controversy is thankfully over. I have rendered an apology in the papers. I am a very proud Bedi Sikh. I haven't changed my surname after marriage. If I call my dogs as 'Bedi' and 'Kaushal', I call them out of affection; they are like family.


How does it feel to be back in 'Kyunki...'?

It's a very cohesive unit. That is the key to this programme's popularity. The new track of Mihir-Tulsi-Mandira is very exciting. People are curious to know what will happen next. Will Tulsi forgive Mihir for that one-night stand with Mandira? Will Mihir accommodate Mandira in his life? Will the obsessive Mandira let go of Mihir?

God forbid, but what would you do if something happened to you in real life, like it has happened to Tulsi in 'Kyunki...'?

I cannot answer this question unless and until something like this really happens. Pray that it never does.

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