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  Actor to yogi and back

Actor to yogi and back

Published : Nov 2, 2015, 10:04 pm IST
Updated : Nov 2, 2015, 10:04 pm IST

Bijay Anand, who had a hit in his name with his very first film, chose to shift gears and seek solace in spirituality. He’s facing the camera once again after 17 years only because the role is very close to his real persona

Bijay Anand, the yoga teacher
 Bijay Anand, the yoga teacher

Bijay Anand, who had a hit in his name with his very first film, chose to shift gears and seek solace in spirituality. He’s facing the camera once again after 17 years only because the role is very close to his real persona

Remember the guy who dumps Kajol in Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha We are talking about Bijay Anand, who had a slight brush with fame when the film turned out to be a blockbuster. But the actor, in spite of being able to jumpstart his Bollywood career on the right note, chose to change tracks. And no, he didn’t turn producer or director or even a politician as is the fad. Bijay became a yogi and devoted his life to teaching yoga. But why are we talking about him now Because he seems to have had a change of heart yet again, after 17 years, to turn back to acting. Bijay will be seen playing the role of Sita’s father Janak in the television show Siya Ke Ram that will be launched soon.

Bijay did have to struggle to find fame in the industry but he says when he finally got it, the lure of it all was lost to him. “After Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha became a hit, I was offered 22 films as the main lead. But I just decided to quit the industry because my heart told me to do so. I have seen everything — poverty, struggle and I wanted to be known as an actor. But when I finally got that I realised it has no meaning,” Bijay says. It all started when Bijay begun attending yoga conferences. “As my body was stiff, I felt yoga would be of help. When I was 36, I got arthritis and I was also diagnosed with high levels of cholesterol. That’s when I discovered Kundalini yoga. If the soul is not happy, the body contracts all kinds of diseases. I realised my stiffness was because of my anger. Once I let it go out of my body, my body became flexible.” His real draw towards yoga came to him through the Sufi character Khidr, a mystical figure who is described in the Quran as a righteous servant of God. “The character is a metaphor for intuition. In one of my yoga sessions, it is through Khidr that realisation dawned on me to stop pursuing acting as a career. I have never questioned my intuition. It was a big decision to make. First of all, you spend so many years to become an actor, you have a silver jubilee hit in your name and then you simply quit the industry!”

Even though many years had passed since he had faced the camera, Bijay found that he could still do it with ease. “When I finally faced the camera for this show, it didn’t feel like I was doing it after 17 years, seemed like just 17 minutes. It’s in fact easier now, since I understand life better. Earlier I was acting, now I’m being myself on camera. I don’t know if I will take up any more projects after this, it all depends on my friend Khidr,” he says with a smile.

But why did he choose to return at all “I’m a yoga teacher now — my dharma and karma is to teach people something important. I realised where I teach is not important, as long as I teach —be it in my class or on screen. Even my character Janak is a teacher. Teaching is in fact reaching out to people. The character is just what I am in life. When Nikhil Sinha (producer) approached me for the show he said to me, ‘you are not an actor playing Janak, you are Janak, which is why I want you. I cannot think of anyone else for the part.’ And I agreed.”

Having conducted yoga sessions all over India and around the world through his organisation Anahata, Anand opines that the West is more accepting of yoga, while Indians don’t value it as much as they should. “The West is so ready for yoga, so hungry for knowledge and philosophy. In the US if you put it on WhatsApp that Bijay Anand is teaching today and we have room for 40 people, 400 people sign up. In India not even 30 people will sign up. Indians think they know all about philosophy by watching Ramayana and Mahabharata on TV. Being born into that culture is all right but you have to make use of that knowledge. Two days ago I gave an interview to Yoga Journal, the biggest yoga magazine in Amsterdam, where I said, ‘Europe is ready for yoga, Europe has seen the money, the maya. They want to be happy now and know that yoga and philosophy is the only way. Indians are busy fighting with their families over property matters but at some point we will have to get out of that trap.’”