How 55-Year-Old California Teacher Became a Bollywood Actress


It’s Never Too Late” is a series that tells the stories of people who decide to follow their dreams.


By most accounts, Richard Klein had a pretty good life: a solid job as a teacher at a Hebrew day school in Oakland, California; friends like family and a passion for singing and dancing that dominates their nights and weekends. But one morning, he woke up at the age of 45 and realized that he had not yet embraced his full potential. He wanted to get into Bollywood.

“I have always loved performing and listened to Indian classical and devotional music a lot,” Mr. Klein said. 2001 Bollywood epic “lagainspired him to make his passion his profession. “Things have taken a full turn,” he said, adding that he appeared in the movie 2022.Lal Singh ChadhaWith Aamir Khan who starred in “Lagaan”.

Six months after that fateful morning, divorced and childless Mr. Klein moved to Mumbai. At first, he lived part-time in the coastal metropolis. He alternated between editing captions for English-language television shows in Mumbai and teaching in California, where he would earn enough money to try and earn another six months in the performing arts world in India.

He finally paid off. Mr. Klein, now 55 years old, acted in dozens of Indian movies, television shows and commercials, playing various roles as scientist, doctor, chief, spy, and, quite often, a “bad British officer” for his ability to nail a British accent.

Making the change was not without contention. He said he would do it all again though. “I’m in India, you know, in the land of reincarnation,” Mr. Klein said, “but I think there’s only one life I’m dealing with. I want to make the most of it.” (The interview below has been edited and shortened.)

What was your life like before making this change?

I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for nearly 20 years. I was mostly a teacher: math, science, computer lab. My nights and weekends were spent doing some kind of performing arts. I’ve always had an affinity for music. I remember being a little kid, walking in the park, singing. A stranger passed by and I got a little quiet. My mother said: “Don’t be shy. You sing loudly and don’t worry about anyone else.”

What was the basin moment?

I was working as a teacher at a Hebrew day school, and I woke up one morning and thought, “If I don’t do something, I could be here for the next 20 years.” That wouldn’t be a terrible outcome, but that’s not what I wanted.

I studied India in graduate school while pursuing a degree in religion. Learning about India inspired me to take the nickname Bhakti, which I have been using since 1991, but I never legally changed my name. In a broad sense, Bhakti means devotion and love. This word reminds me to lead with my heart instead of my head, so I think about it every time I hear my name.

My first trip to India was in 1995 as a backpacker. I absolutely loved it. I went back a few times after that. So I thought: what if I go there, stay and see what happens? I went to a jazz club on one of my first nights in Mumbai. All of the players were foreigners. Then we started talking and here I joined their group as a singer, my first step into the world of performing arts.

What was the biggest challenge you had to navigate?

When I first came, I was staying in pretty cheap places. Most of the time, there was no hot water in the shower. Most of the time there wasn’t even a shower – I took a bucket bath most of my time in India, which is really cool.

How did you go from editing subtitles to acting in Bollywood productions?

About four years after moving to Mumbai, I started getting opportunities for voiceover work: corporate presentations, TV and radio commercials that wanted an American or British accent. Then I started getting calls to copy Bollywood movies. Then I was invited to audition for acting.

At first, I bought background pieces. And then, being blessed with an American accent and a bit of vocal training, I started auditioning and getting speaking roles.

It was a blessing. It was another miracle of India. Being able to learn a new art form now is incredibly beautiful and an incredible opportunity.

What’s next?

I want to continue acting. There is much more to learn. I get very good feedback and the pieces are getting better and more diverse. I don’t always play a bad British officer anymore. I get other kinds of roles, bigger roles and get more respect. I’m in a beautiful sci-fi love story called “X = Front“It comes out in February. This is my fourth time working with director Srijit Mukherji.

Otherwise, I want to live every day in this wonderful country.

How has this new movement changed you?

Being here gives me the opportunity to be the best version of myself. I didn’t feel this opportunity in the US, I feel like people here see me the way I want to see them. I do not know why. Honestly, I feel like it stems from the ridiculous love I have for this place.

What advice would you give to people who are stuck and want to make a big change?

Dream big, then figure out what all the little steps are to get there and hit those steps one at a time. There are always obstacles. Your loved ones can be a hindrance, money can be a hindrance. Not easy. There is a lot of sacrifice, but you can dream and fulfill a big dream.


We’re looking for people who decide it’s never too late to switch gears, change their lives, and pursue their dreams. Shall we talk to you or someone you know? Share your story Here.



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