Bob Christo played Bollywood baddies in score of films including Qurbani, Namak Halal, Mard, Mr. India and Agneepath. if there was a fight to be picked with the hero, a village to be terrorized or an immoral foreigner to be portrayed, it invariably fell on Bob’s beefy shoulders. He acted in over 200 films and fifteen television serials in a career that spanned over two decades.
This memorable autobiography traces the journey of a civil engineer from Australia who travelled the world and wrestled with his own demons before becoming one of Bollywood’s most prolific villains—and then went on to reinvent himself yet again. Bob Christo’s life story is like a rollicking super hit and includes bar brawls and shootouts, secret missions and spirituality, wars and passionate liaisons, and even music and dance. Above all, Flashback is an insider’s perspective on one of the most fascinating film industries in the world.
Robert John Christo, popularly known as Bob Christo, was born in 1938 in Sydney, Australia. After completing his civil engineering in Sydney, he took on projects which involved supporting the military supply lines of the South Vietnamese army and working as construction supervisor on the film sets of Apocalypse Now. Led by his instincts, Christo Zealously followed one aspiration after another: chasing after a lost spy ship, running an escort service, modeling for African beer, singing in Rock concerts and so on.
Bob Christo landed his first film role at the age of sixteen in a German movie, after working as an extra in the Dusseldorf National Theatre, Germany. Hoping to meet Parveen Babi in India, he chanced upon a part in Sanjay Khan’s Abdullah (1980) and then went on to act in hundreds of Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada films. In the year 2000 he became a yoga instructor after shifting base from Mumbai to Bangalore, where he passed away on 20 March 2011.
I always liked reading-right from childhood, after I had mastered the English and German alphabets. It opened up a different world for me; a world that I did not know yet. I liked fairy tales as a child but later on I began to enjoy stories that were based on facts. My mind used to delve into the depth of the stories that I read, trying to find an answer to why things happened the way they were described. Why didn't they happen in another way? Sometimes I kept on thinking for hours about a story that I had read and variations of them were born in my imagination. During one period of my youth, I used to tell stories to my brothers and my childhood friends during the day; however, one day they persuaded me to continue narrating the stories to them at night. So my brother and I went to borrow some microphones and speakers from a friend's father who had a repair shop for radios; these, together with some other equipment, we fixed inside our neighbours' children's bedrooms to finish the stories that I had started to tell them during the day. Now they could lie in their beds, happily listening to my fiction till late at night until they drifted off to sleep.
At school, we were sometimes asked to write essays. The topics were varied; it could be about a sports event or a day out, or about a city or village or a volcano that had erupted not very long ago. We would have to write down every detail that we could remember. Occasionally I received top marks and prizes for outstanding essays. Over the years I kept up the practice; whenever I happened to witness strange events or anything interesting or curious or dangerous, I would make notes of it so I could remember it again later on. I was always observing my surroundings. For instance, once when I was in school in Dusseldorf I spotted a squadron of manoeuvring American military aircraft right above me, quite high. Though there was no sound to tip me off, I saw one aircraft hitting the one next to it while the one that got hit bumped into the fighter aircraft right in front of it. All three aircraft burst into flames immediately and within a few minutes hit the ground. Thanks to my observant nature I had noticed what most others would have missed. I jumped on to my racing cycle to the place where the crashed planes had fallen.
When I told people about some of the interesting things that I got involved in or witnessed, they would challenge me in all seriousness to write a book filled with my adventures and anecdotes and the love and affection that I felt for and got from all the different countries to which I have travelled. They said it would definitely be very successful.
Well, I've heard that for years but my reply has usually been, 'If I ever manage to find somebody who would like to do it on my behalf, go ahead, you're welcome. I am not interested, I'm not a writer.' Actually, when I think of my replies now, I feel that I should have tried because deep down I really like writing.
Then, on one Sunday in February 2008 I read an article on the 'Life' page in the Times of India by Nona Walia, the columnist from New Delhi. The title of the story was: 'Can one learn how to write a book?' I read the piece, then sat down thinking about it, imagining a situation in which I start talking to an unknown, pretty girl. I let the conversation run through my mind and then wrote it down on a piece of paper. After I read it, I shouted, 'I can write a book! I've got it!' And then I decided that I could and would write my autobiography. I bought paper, a spiral pad and a few pens and visited two good friends of mine, Satya and Aruna, who were friends and also neighbours in a big block of apartments. I surprised them by telling them that I had decided to write my autobiography and I wanted the two girls to be my assistants. Aruna was a good typist, so she would type everything that I hand-wrote in my manuscript. Satya would have to listen to every thirty or fifty pages of my manuscript as soon as I'd turned them out and give me her opinion of the gist and the interest factor of what I had written. At times she made me rephrase or rewrite entire portions of the manuscript. In return I would give both girls yoga lessons every evening.
Most of my life was right there in my mind as though it had just happened recently. Sometimes I had to wait for a few hours or a day to recall something, but most of the time the old memory bank didn't let me down. I was so happy to have made the decision to write the book myself and not depend on a biography writer. Apart from the fact that I would have had to tell all my experiences to the biography writer, which would have been a more expensive and a boring task for me, it would not have given me the joy which successful writing does! Exactly how Nona Walia wrote in her Sunday column: 'I would want to write a book and be alive to read it when my first book is published.'
After I had an operation in 2006, the post-operative time was a very painful period; however, I was fortunate enough to have had a friend who was helping me during those days. I used to call her Angel. I don't know what I would have done without her; I doubt that I would have survived. So I just say: Thank you again, my Angel. And God bless you.
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