‘I slept on the pavement in Juhu’: Bugs BhargavaHT48HRS_Special Updated: Apr 23, 2016 16:14 IST
Actor-adman Bugs Bhargava moved to Mumbai in 1981, with Rs 500 in his pocket(Photo: Aalok Soni/HT; location: Indigo Deli, Bandra (W))
Adman ‘Bugs’ Bhargava Krishna created the famous line: “Taste the thunder”. He is also the voice of King Louie in the Jungle Book. His moving-to-Mumbai-story is one you must know
We all have our ‘moving to Mumbai’ stories.
If you’ve done it in your youth, chances are, cramped PGs and overpriced, damp rooms feature prominently. They are the stuff of books. Which, we’ll write some day, when we are able to take a break from a life of Churchgate Fast and slow traffic.
Actor and adman ‘Bugs’ Bhargava Krishna moved from Bangalore to Mumbai in the early ’80s. He was 19. He packed his bags and boarded a train, with Rs 500 in his pocket, on a shaky job offer from an ad agency. Naturally, he too has a story to tell. It features sleeping on pavements, and pretending to be a cook in his cousin’s PG.
He tells it with a smile, and a sense of pride. Like any good ‘discovering Mumbai’ story, it is nightmare-turned-nostalgia.
“My cousin was sharing a room with two other boys. The landlord had told him no one else was allowed. So, every time the landlord would visit, I would rush into the kitchen and pretend to be the cook.” When this could no longer go on, he resorted to briefly sleeping outside an eatery in Juhu, and then finding a room at the YMCA. “The rent per person was Rs 350. But I was paying double because they didn’t have a person I could share the room with.”
At 55, Bhargava has come a long way. He walks to the Indigo Deli on Pali Hill for our meeting. “I live down the road,” he says.
In the last 35 years, he’s done theatre with Alyque Padamsee (his mentor, in many ways), Padamsee’s ex-wife Pearl, and Rahul DaCunha’s theatre group, Rage, among several others. He’s acted in films (Delhi Belly, Taare Zameen Par, among others). And if you still haven’t heard of Bhargava, you certainly know his ads: does “Taste the thunder” ring a bell?
Yet, he says he’s always been a man without a grand plan. He still doesn’t think of the long-term, he insists. He hopes to be able to write and direct movies, but doesn’t care much for acting parts.
Evidently, for someone so successful, in two careers no less, he’s not big on showing it either. He comes dressed in what looks like a Fabindia shirt, untucked over a formal pair of trousers, a Titan watch on his wrist. And he’s terribly nice. Sure, actors often are to journalists. But he actually turns up early for our meeting. That’s unprecedented.
How I played a clock
It’s not surprising then that Bhargava is friends with a lot of industry people. He refers to Rahul DaCunha, Amole Gupte and Sanjna Kapoor as “good friends”.
It was one of those friendships that led Bhargava to Disney’s big Broadway-style show last year, Beauty and the Beast. “Vikranth [Pawar, director] asked to meet at Starbucks and told me he was doing Beauty and the Beast. Then, he asked me to play the Clock [Cogsworth, the prince’s butler who is turned into a clock].”
With a sold-out first run, and a second season now coming up, Bhargava calls it “the most professional theatre experience of my life”. Yet, it wasn’t without its madness. There were still the mics to fix, the wheels that jammed, and the general madness of cues and costumes, but it all came together efficiently, he says. “The speed at which it all happens is like that of a Formula One team working on a car in pit stop,” he says.
And he hopes this is just the beginning, for the sake of performance arts and theatre in the country. “We don’t have a West End (London) or a Broadway (New York) culture. We still operate on a weekend theatre basis.” We’re also a city that, in spite of years of good, evolving theatre, still lacks venues. Bhargava believes Disney, with its might and scale, can change that. We hope they’re listening.
Catch the second season of Beauty and the Beast
Where: NSCI, Worli
When: May 6 to 15
Tickets: Rs 1,500 onward on bookmyshow.com