Bedi banks on Sikh mantra career boost
Monica Bedi, former Bollywood actress who became more famous for her dramatic personal life than for her performances on screen, is hoping that providing vocals on a Sikh religious album will give momentum to her planned show business comeback.
The Sikh actress featured in nearly a dozen films in the nineties but her career nose-dived in the noughties as she became partner, then reportedly, the wife of Mumbai underworld figure Abu Salem – a relationship that resulted in her extradition with Salem from Portugal in 2005 and incarceration in India on passport forgery charges.
That’s the short version of several years of “mistakes” – also including a two year sentence to a Portuguese prison – which Bedi now says she wants to put behind her. She aims to revive her Bollywood career and also has her eyes on Hollywood.
Bedi has had charges hanging over her, on and off, for several years.
However she was released from Chanchalguda central jail in Hyderabad in summer 2007 and was restored to public favour in 2008 when she was chosen as one of the residents for India’s Big Boss TV reality show, making a second appearance when viewers voted her back in after she was evicted.
The new Ek Onkaar album is a compilation of the Sikh mantra called Mul Mantra, a holy chant from the Guru Granth Sahib, and also features 2 Pauris from Japji Saheb.
Bedi sings the mantra although she admits to being something less than a “bathroom singer” in an interview with The Times of India.
Bedi reportedly converted to Islam during her time with Abu Salem but has denied this and denied also that she married him in 2000. She says she is a believer and the album makers felt that she was ”a strong girl” and that a higher power was helping her to emerge from her troubles.
“Since I am a Sikh girl they thought I was a good choice,” she told The Times.
She will be relieved if her appearance on the album helps her rehabilitation.
For years she has never been far from controversy. Even in jail in 2007 she made headlines when nude photographs of her were reportedly taken by a camera hidden in a Bhopal prison bathroom and shown on a TV channel.
When Bedi was freed from jail in Hyderabad she went to court in August that year to have the images, whether real or ‘morphed’, suppressed as a serious invasion of her right to privacy – and the Indian Supreme Court upheld her claim and banned further telecasting of the images.
Bedi and Abu Salem were arrested in Lisbon in September 2002 for entering Portugal on forged documents. They had been living among the capital’s expatriate Indian Goan community.
The actress, with Salem, was extradited in 2005 in a passport forgery case the authorities linked to India’s worst bomb attacks. Salem was accused of involvement in explosions in Mumbai in 1993 which killed more than 250 people and faced trial in connection with the attacks. In Portugal, he had been sentenced to four and a half years in November 2003 for possession of forged documents and for resisting arrest.
His trial on a variety of charges in India is imminent.
Police say Bedi and Salem fled India soon after the Mumbai blasts.
Back in India, Bedi was acquitted by a court in Bhopal because of weaknesses in the evidence from witnesses. She was released on bail in Hyderabad pending an appeal after a court sentenced her to five years in September 2006 for similar offences.
Bedi’s lawyers have denied she was romantically involved with Salem and claimed he was holding her hostage.
Bedi was born in the Punjab village of Chabbewal in Hoshiarpur. She also lived in Norway where her family started a garment business and she studied English Literature at Oxford University in the UK, where she met a Bollywood actor-producer who sharpened her interest in a film career.
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