Kabir Bedi is one of the first Indian actors to achieve global success and popularity with his internationally acclaimed TV series Sandokan (1976) and his villainous act in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy.
The actor's filmography boasts of several hit Bollywood movies and stints on popular American shows like The Bold and the Beautiful. Bedi is also a voting member of the Oscars/ Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, since 1982.
In an exclusive interview with IBTimes UK, Bedi weighs in on the Oscars' ongoing diversity debate, talks about the voting process and shares that he would be "surprised if Eddie Redmayne beats Leonardo DiCaprio" for the best actor award this year.
Your thoughts on the Oscar line-up this year.
Well, I think the Oscar line-up every year is good because it is selected by members of the Academy... so it's always a good line-up. As a voting member, I can't give you my favourites right now. But there are a number of important films up this year for consideration and I think it's going to be very interesting to see whether, for instance, people go for a classic like Bridge of Spies, or whether they go for The Revenant or whether they go for the absolute 'mad, flesh-and-blood' Mad Max.
I'm pretty sure that Mad Max will pick up a lot of awards in the technical categories — editing, sound and all that. But in the best picture category, I don't know... like I said there are some really heavyweight contenders. Even Spotlight is up there but it's a very serious subject. Then of course there's The Big Short, which is all about the 2008 [financial] crisis, and there's three other films [Room, Brooklyn and The Martian] which I haven't seen yet which I'll see in the next few days before voting.
Do you think wins at award shows like The Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, which precede the Oscars, pretty much decide a film or actor's chances of winning?
Well, it is some kind of indication but not a sure one. Because, for instance, The Golden Globes are heavily influenced by the Hollywood PR machine but in the Oscars, there's a whole different process that happens. And the Oscars have often differed with the Golden Globes as well as the Screen Actors Guild, even the BAFTAs for that matter.
What is this different process? Could you explain how the voting system works?
The voting system works like this: The Academy is divided into a number of branches — the actor's branch, the director's branch, art director's branch, musician's branch, etc. Now, at the time of the initial voting, only people within a branch can vote for the nominations. For example, only actors can vote for the best actors in the acting categories. However, all the people can vote for best picture. That's the first stage.
When the 'nominated' stage comes up, everyone votes for everyone. So, at that phase, everyone votes for everything — except for the foreign films category where you have to prove that you have seen the foreign films, before you vote for them.
Best actor — Who are you rooting for?
Well, as an emotional favourite — certainly Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant is highly favoured. He's definitely the popular choice this year.
Would you be surprised if Eddie Redmayne ends up winning?
(Laughs) it's hard for me to say that. I know he's a great actor but... I would be surprised if he beats out Leonardo DiCaprio, yes. I would be very surprised.
Your thoughts on the "diversity" issue around Oscars this year.
Well, I don't think one can question the integrity of the members of the Academy because they are chosen for their excellence and work in films. But the fact of the matter is that people's background and orientation does play a major role in the choice of those films. And since more than 90% of them are white, and most of them are in their 60s, that's bound to lead to some form of... I wouldn't say bias but conditioning you know. But I don't think it's them deliberately wanting to keep black Hollywood actors out of the running.
Certain black actors have decided to boycott the Oscars this year. Do you support this protest?
Well, I know Jada Pinkett started this whole ball rolling and it's got a lot of traction. I think it's good that the issue is raised, because it makes people aware about other sensitivities involved that have to be taken into consideration. The Academy itself has made certain changes, with respect to the eligibility of certain voters, which will bring more diversity into the voting process — which is a good thing and that is a direct result of the protest that happened.
As an artiste, what do you feel about the new rule of doing away with Thank Yous in speeches?
There are pluses and minuses on both sides to this. Obviously, if you have won an Oscar, you wanna thank the people that made it possible, and given that you have only 30-45 seconds, you don't have much time for much else to say.
At the same time, if you remove the Thank Yous, the winners get a chance more to say what they feel about things, and share their thoughts because when 'thank yous' are allowed, in a sense it almost becomes obligatory you know, to thank people. So, let's see how this rule works out. If it results in better acceptance speeches then it's for the best of all. Because the fact of the matter is, most people in the industry know who the people responsible for that film are and most people, in the wider world, don't know who certain studio executives are or certain people are so maybe it's an experiment worth trying, to see which gives us better acceptance speeches.
The Oscars 2016 will take place on 28 February in Los Angeles, USA.