Do they still tell you?
The fact that?
"We want a child of yours!"
I was shocked to hear it in Spain.
It's tricky that a single woman asks you for that, that hundreds of you ask for it yelling... what a responsibility! I ran away.
From El Corte Inglés de Preciados, through another door. They saw me and I jumped on the roofs of several cars.
He was afraid?
I feared to die. I was sued by the owners of the cars I dented. It was paid, very kindly, by El Corte Inglés.
You were too famous.
And almost half a century later I am still Sandokan for millions of people.
You lent him your physical good looks.
The physical counts. And the interpretation.
That jump crossing with the tiger.
I really jumped, dagger raised. That was then mounted with a leaping tiger. And so it seemed that I was ripping open his belly.
And, bam!, the tiger dropped dead.
Good memory. I would like to honor the Sandokán series in some way in the year 2026, when it will be fifty years old.
How did you become its protagonist?
I was acting in Bollywood movies and they called me from Italy: I agreed to shoot Sandokan... and the series hatched.
What do you remember of your days in Italy?
I had a disagreement with my partner, Parveen, a brilliant Bollywood actress. My partner today has the same name, but it is different.
What do you mean by “different”?
That Parveen was jealous. At a dinner with Gina Lollobrigida, the Italian danced with me and made an advance on me. And Parveen got up and left. I decided to go with her.
A romance with Lollobrigida was lost.
But in Italy I dealt with Audrey Hepburn and Monica Vitti, actresses I idolized, and Franco Zeffirelli, Bernardo Bertolucci and Federico Fellini, directors I admired.
How did you become an actor?
Probably because at eighteen I felt abandoned.
Who abandoned you?
My mother became a Buddhist nun. Dismayed, I asked her why: "The apple falls from the tree, nobody knows when," she told me. And I was left alone with myself.
And his father?
My father, an Indian, who was a communist and anti-colonialist...
Like Sandokan: anti-colonialist.
Well, my father, like Sandokán, also fell in love with an English woman and married her: my mother.
What did you learn from your parents?
"Don't be conventional, be different!", my father repeated to me. And he was like that: my father turned from a communist to a spiritual guru.
From one faith to another faith, then.
He called himself Baba Bedi, and he came to heal people.
And you, son of a guru and a nun...
I was studying business management, but I needed to express myself: I wanted to direct movies... and in the end my voice and my physique pushed me to interpret. And that activity satisfied me.
And until today, right?
Yes. Being an actor is a game between the emotional and the intellectual, and it has been good for me.
Did you continue to treat your mother?
Yes, and I apologized and loved her. And thanks to my mother, years before her death, I became friends with her teacher, the Dalai Lama.
Ask the Dalai Lama about his tongue in front of that child.
The Dalai Lama is mischievous, and his gesture is rooted in tradition. The western bias makes you see in that gesture what is not there.
What other roles do you remember fondly, Sandokan aside?
I enjoyed being the villain who fights James Bond (Roger Moore) over a plane in the final scene of Octopussy. We recorded that scene on three continents.
The house is big!
I had a lot of fun working on episodes of Magnum, Dynasty, Fantastic Car, Murder, She Wrote...
Does being an actor still bring you happiness?
An enormous professional happiness... that unfortunately I have seen tarnished by painful family misfortunes.
Which is it?
I've been through three divorces, and that's always painful, but the worst was the suicide of my first son, Siddhartha.
Twenty-something, handsome, on the way to being a brilliant computer engineer, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I found him the best specialists. Siddharta felt a tormenting emptiness and suffered... "I am not interested in life without feeling normal", he confessed to me.
And how did you feel afterwards?
Very guilty. I was little with my children, because of my work. My wound has already healed, but I still feel that scar.