Exclusive by Devansh Patel
Amitabh Bachchan could have retired long ago. He could have hung up his hat on his many awards, basked in the glow of movie history, and holed up in his Mumbai bungalow above all the hustle and bustle of Bollywood. But luckily for everyone, he hasn't gone anywhere and, at 66, is at the top of his game. In the last three years alone, he's worked with one of the movies' best known directors demonstrating a penchant for artistic evolution and experimentation. But as Bachchan tells me, and as few of the legend's colleagues and friends tell us, as much as his role choices and costars have changed, some things about the man remain the same: He loves to learn, is more anxious to promote his films than the distributors and producers, has to have tea and cookies while giving interviews and can't get enough of life's little pleasures. So while he adjusts his yellow tie and his trademark dark glasses, I have a last careful look at my questions which will be fired to Mr Bachchan.... because you never know when they might get back fired.
B for B.R.Films, B for Baghban, B for Baabul, B for Bhoothnath, B for Bachchan and B for Blog. The only thing I can say here is - to B or not to B?
(laughs) It's nice the way you've used the B in the question. But it's also a coincidence that happens to everyone in their life at some point or the other. Yes, I still haven't worked with B.R Chopra as a director but look at destiny, I'm working with B.R.Films for that matter. And now the entire media is talking about the blog which I've started but then it wouldn't be possible without the help of media. I hope my views and opinions expressed in my blog are appreciated by one and all, and if not, they are free to express their.
With so much going around - IIFA, Bhoothnath and Sarkar Raj next, you seem to be the busiest actor on board. What's your stress level like?
I don't understand why the media asks this question. I mean whatever I'm doing is my job. Today if I'm given some responsibility, I'll make sure I fulfill it. Yes, my age does not permit me to do everything I want to but I try and manage and adjust as per my convenience. And my stress level is normal at the moment.
Adlabs distributed and marketed your earlier film Baabul which grossed 960,000 pounds and was one of the top 15 films ever on the U.K box office out of 500 released. Now with Eros International distributing Bhoothnath, do you think this film will touch a million pounds?
Well, we all know how capable Eros International are. And with the stats which you've just mentioned of B.R Films, I can't see why Bhoothnath can't do good business.
You're playing a bhooth in Bhoothnath and a genie in your forthcoming film Alladin. Do such roles allow you to tap the child within you?
We all have a child within ourselves and it does come out sometime and somewhere. So if films like Bhoothnath and Alladin give me variety, it also gives me freedom to be jovial and interact with kids and ofcourse, as you just mentioned, to tap a child within me.
You'd normally associate a bhooth with Ramsay Brothers or Ram Gopal Varma. But Amol Palekar in Paheli and Vivek Sharma in Bhoothnath have given a completely new dimension to their bhooth's. Any comments?
You're right. They have. But let's not forget that the Indian Film Industry needed a makeover and it came at the right time. Yes, there is a risk of films not doing well while you experiment with new ideas but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel too. The way Vivek has made this film, for once you will not be able to tell that Bhoothnath is made by a debutant.
Why do you think the story of Bhoothnath in today's time period be relevant for people today?
Bhoothnath is just not another ghost story. It's a story of a little kid and a ghost who becomes friendly, their relationship and how as it develops, they are able to sort out a problem which is quite universal like togetherness, family relationships, respect for elders and so forth.
Do you encourage your costars to take on your style and do you accept theirs when you're acting?
I have no style and I hope I don't, and I will never want to interfere in someone else's style.
You mentioned on the BBC Breakfast while promoting Bhoothnath that you refrain from using the word Bollywood. But do you mind when people use that word in front of you?
Yes, because it's detrimental. It's degrading. We are the Indian Film Industry and why give it a definatory terminology.
What did you learn about the mindset of young directors like debutant Vivek Sharma from your years of reserach and study in films?
I've hardly done any research, but yes, I've had the oppurtunity to work with many prominent directors and new ones too. I find the younger generation more excitable, aggresive in their passion to succeed, technically more savvy, more professional as far as managing their project is concerned and very very keen to propel their graph upwards, not that the others aren't either. But this generation is terribly independent, aggressive and wanting desperately to prove themselves at a very early age.
Merchandising a film has become an important marketing tool now-a-days, from clothes to accessories to games. Do marketing of this sort change the fate of any films?
I don't know but I'd imagine it does, otherwise it wouldn't be there. Once a film becomes popular, perhaps there is a need and a desire to have a lasting identity with it so that the merchandising goods get manufactured and they remain with you. For Bhoothnath too we have come out with some games for the kids which I'm sure they will love playing. In the past we have seen that such strategies have been successful in the West. So why not try them here when it works. I'd say Yes.
One learns about Mr Bachchan on the set of being dedicated, the visionary, the go-getter and the one who shares a laugh with his costars. Is it an obsessiveness, a passion that's necessary to get where you want to go or is that you've had enough?
No, I hope that I've never had enough because then it'll be a terrible moment for me. So yes, we look out for fresh things and new ideas and fresh oppurtunities and the atmosphere on the sets needs to be very conducive in wanting to achieve that. So we work to excel in whatever we are doing and look for excellence in every department and try to work hard enough to achieve our goals and dreams.
How would you characterise your contribution and your achievment in the field of films and what do you understand about achievment now that you did not when you were young?
I don't think that there's been any great achievment as far as I'm concerned. I've just been fortunate and lucky to be in an industry which has looked upon me rather kindly. The fans have propelled me into doing what I've desired to do and I'm happy for that and I hope they continue looking at me in this manner. Industry changes happen because of changes in the society, changes in time and period and in the way the country has changed. All this is reflected in any kind of creativity. So if you find things different in our cinema, it is reflective of the above changes. I will always honour that and that is my achievment. These are some of the things I've noticed.
The road to shoot a film is not a straight line. It's a winding road. You must have faced set backs, frustations and self doubts while filming Bhootnath and many other films. How do you deal with them?
I think that is true for any vocation in life, whether you are a journalist or an actor or a businessman. There would be ups and down and that's what teaches you about life and how to overcome hardships, obstacles and hurdles. I hope they remain because each hurdle is a great lesson in life. We need to struggle everyday to be able to succeed and to be able to look forward. If it was all smooth sailing, my life would be too monotonous.
The Indian Film Industry is more about the star kids. But when you see young and very young talents such as Aman Siddiqui, don't you feel they are the future to look out for and should be groomed well rather than see them in a one off appearance?
I think Aman is very young and surely this is something that he will have to decide upon or let us say, his parents. But to say that the film industry is full of star kids is not entirely correct. Yes, there are children that are working who belong to stars but that's a very natural phenomenon. I wasn't a star kid when I started off and neither was Shahrukh or Salman and Hrithik or Hrithik's father, Mr Rakesh Roshan. There are examples and I don't think that should be looked upon in a derogatory manner or in a negative way. When the same thing happens in business nobody says anything, when it happens in medical profession nobody says anything, then why films?
You also quoted on the BBC Breakfast show that the films you do is sort of an escapism for those who cannot afford luxury or want to escape from the daily worries. Why do you say so?
The question asked revolved around our Indian films which are very big and colourful and so on, and I said yes, I think our films are escapist in nature and we need to show that to the common man who perhaps does not get an oppurtunity to see this. So if by paying some money to watch a film if that person can get three hours to escape from his personal worries, poverty and hardships in life, that's what our cinema is all about.
From IIFA Yorkshire in 2007 to IIFA Bangkok in 2008. Are there any cities and countries left now to host the awards?
(laughs) Well, we always try to do things which are different and add more to the IIFA weekend irrespective of which country or city hosts it. I hope we continue doing that and try and make it better in the future years as well. Ofcourse, IIFA weekend in Bangkok this year will also be special and remembered dearly as for the first time the entire Bachchan family comes together for Sarkar Raj which is premeired there.
Well then, would you like to give a special parting message to the readers of this blog?
Thank you for your love and affection. I hope you continue seeing our films. We are a family full of actors now and we need your blessings which I know has always been with us.