How I ‘met’ my father

Though my father (actor Vinod Mehra) died before I was born, I was very lucky to be raised by two very loving grandparents. They never let me feel that I lacked anything in my life. Equally, my mum did an incredible job and took on the duties of both a mother and a father. She played both roles perfectly when my sister (Soniya Mehra) and I were growing up, and still does so.

I felt my childhood was quite complete. My mother is an extremely strong woman, but at the same time has a very soft core; I feel such qualities are essential to making it through life. It’s amazing how she came out of the trauma of losing a husband at such a young age and went on to raise two babies into two adults.

I miss my dad a lot, now. I think the older I become, the more I understand what his absence means and its implications on me personally. My granddad also passed away a few years ago, and I think that also triggered a sense of longing in mind. Some things you only understand with age.

Given the fact that I never met my dad, a life with him around would have definitely been a different life for me in every sense. However, that said, my mum has always raised me on the principles he stood for and that has resulted in making me who I am today.

People have said the nicest things about him. They tell me that he was a true gentleman. They unanimously agree that he was one of the nicest human beings, if not the nicest human being that they’ve ever met. They also tell me about his high level of intelligence, integrity and his immense love for the arts.

I have got a lot of insight about my dad from my bua (paternal aunt). Whenever we meet and chat, she always tells me how much I remind her of him, and that somewhere she believes he has come back to her in my form. She is always telling me to learn and take inspiration from his life, she thinks our paths are quite similar.

Having grown up with him and knowing him much before he achieved fame and recognition, she gives me a huge amount of insight about the man he was and who he eventually became. I will always cherish my conversations with her.

I have seen quite a few of my dad’s films. My favourites include Bemisal (1982), Anurodh (1977), Anuraag (1972) and Ghar (1978). He was extremely handsome and his voice had great depth and emotional resonance. I think he was a really good actor.

His body of work shows an incredible range and a high amount of risk in the choice of films that he did. He also had an incredible way of bringing a bit of himself into every character he played, it made these characters even more human.

How I ‘met’ my father

While watching his films, the impression I gather is he was a real gentleman. His softness and deeply caring nature always shone right through. I think this is a view shared by everyone who has had the pleasure of watching his films.

Yes, there is something special in being able to watch a film my dad acted in, and seeing what he sounded like and what he looked like in motion. It’s particularly interesting for me as I never met him. Is it a consolation? Perhaps, in a small way.

I do wish I could see more interviews of him and see what he had to say about the characters he played, and just generally hear him speak about film and life, those close to him tell me he had very unique and passionate view. I hope to dig up these tapes through the archives one day — if they do exist.

Sometimes I feel in his absence you can start to understand the human being as he actually is. It’s not uncommon to take someone’s presence for granted when they are always around; this, in turn, may never let you see who the person really is inside.

We have a tendency to form an opinion on another based on what we think and what we want to believe, rather than on what is the actual truth. My father’s absence has sparked a great desire in me to understand him not only as a parent, but as a human being.

I feel very blessed and proud to be his son. I hope to make him proud of me, both as a human being and as an artiste. It’s sad he never got to achieve everything he set out to, I take it as my personal responsibility to complete what he started.

— Co-ordinated by Dinesh Raheja

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