exclusive by Devansh Patel
So often actors who are "on the edge" tend to forget how quickly the mountain of their talent can turn into the molehill of their image. But Abhishek Bachchan has developed such a talent for going so far over the edge so many times in his career that it's as if, by establishing his own perspective, he's redefined the boundaries. As one of modern cinema's most luminous points of light, binding together such disparate, and often desperate, is a sense of honour that seems to come from Abhi's implicit understanding of how far over the edge fate can lead us. But the buck doesn't stop there. Getting the chance to talk to the uber- talented Bachchan last weekend was, well, icing on the cake. It's no wonder that he has found so much success in his work for cult roles like in Yuva, Guru, Sarkar and Sarkar Raj – he is an intense but laid back man drawn to his passion while also seeming quite grounded. Our talk was brief, but what followed was a look into the process of making this genius. We won our battle to make Abhishek smile. But he made us smile too, which is maybe more important anyway. The principally serious-minded actor who loves joking around off and on the sets was closing in on the end of a long day on Valentine's Day as a special guest at the Indian Idol show taking place at the R.K. Studios in Chembur. He walks on to the sets along with his co-star Sonam Kapoor, shakes a leg to his favourite 'Kala Bander' and 'Masakali' to which the audiences scream 'once more'. He really got in the groove with his rapper style dance. Next, his bouncers in grey coloured safari suits come close to the sets signalling that it's time for Abhi to exit...and exit quick because he had to catch a flight to New York in the next five hours. Out walks the soaring Bachchan in his black suede suit with shiny black boots. By then, we had given up hope. He opens the door of his vanity van. Gets in and shuts it. Within seconds his bouncers open the door again, and then the extraordinary happens. Abhishek Bachchan invites us in his vanity van for the only interview he wanted to do on the V-Day. We knew it is hard work to talk to a journo after a four hour long shoot on the reality show but also knew that he's happy to do what he can to support Delhi 6. Five minutes into the interview, we hear "A.B, you in?" to which he replied, "Yeah Bhabhs". Now this is what a true gentleman does. He introduced us to Sonali Bendre, one of the Indian Idol judges for the season. "Meet my bhabhi Sonali", he says with utmost respect. His sweet bhabhi requests us, "How much time will you take to finish the interview?" We say, "Give us five minutes please". We were punctual and concluded on time. Ten minutes is what Abhishek took from us. But what we took back on that special day from Abhi was – his affability, his liberality, his gravity and his sincerity towards his family, his work, his fellow colleagues and journalists like us. Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent and UK's Harrow Observer columnist Devansh Patel met the towering personality called Abhishek Bachchan, on perhaps one of his most busiest days, where they discuss success, failure, overseas audience, Rishi Kapoor, Waheeda Rahman, Genda Phool and of course, Delhi 6, all in ten minutes. Didn't we say he had to catch a flight?
How far are we going to see an actor like you stretch? It feels as if you're already on the apex of your acting career.
Thank you. It's very kind of you to say that. But it's not about how far I'm going to stretch. It's about how far the directors are willing to push. It's always been about the director and I've always maintained that. We actors, unfortunately, end up walking away with all the credit but it has to go to the directors. I'm very fortunate that somebody like Rakeysh picked me to play Roshan in Delhi 6. We have tried something new. I think Rakeysh is somebody who you've grown to expect to change and to introduce a new narrative and a new language to cinema. I do hope that people appreciate the effort we've put into Delhi 6.
When we met Rakeysh Mehra and one of the writers, Kamlesh Pandey, they told us that Delhi 6 is a modern interpretation of Raj Kapoor's Jaagte Raho.
Let's put it this way. You see the film through Roshan's eyes and he leads you through the entire film. He is almost the conduit. He speaks to the audiences throughout the film through his voiceover, through his actions. This is something I've never done before and I hope I manage to take my audience through the film because if I manage to do that it means the audience have managed to allow themselves to be gripped by the story and the screenplay.
People always ask you – What have you learnt from your failure. Let's flip the question. What have you learnt from your success?
Not to take it seriously (smiles). That's the one thing everybody who've been successful will tell you. The day you start taking success seriously, it'll take it back from you the next day. Your success is an acknowledgment of your hard work and hopefully good work. But in order to maintain it, you have to continue to work hard if not harder. If you don't, as fast as you caught it, it's going to go away.
You will be the first Indian actor to put on an accent throughout the film. Was it then necessary to put on an enunciation to justify your character?
There is an interesting story behind this. We worked out an accent. I had an accent coach because Roshan was born and brought up in New York. So we felt that Roshan should have a strong New York accent. We did a few readings and worked on it for a month. I was then ready with the lingo. Once I was ready, we did another reading with Rakeysh and recorded it, and when I heard it again I said, "You know what I feel is going to happen is that this film is so rooted to India and Indian culture and it's so meant for the Indian audience that it can alienate them to some extent because they might have trouble understanding what I was saying". The NRI's wouldn't have a problem accepting it but back home in India things might go wrong. I had this thought because I was watching an English movie channel in India where this movie had English subtitles. I enquired why an English film should have an English subtitle to which they explained that a lot of times our Indian audience cannot understand the accent. So they want to read and know exactly what the person speaks. That made a lot of sense to me.
So what did you and Rakeysh finally decide?
I suggested Rakeysh to have a twang but not a very heavy accent because we could've confused our Indian audience. He thought about it for a very long time and still wanted to go with the accent. He convinced me to do another reading and by the end of it he finally agreed with me. We went for a faint hint of the accent. So in spite of training for a month we eventually did not go for it while we were on the sets. You will notice it once you see the film.
After Sarkar Raj making it to the 'Top Ten' films at the U.K box office last year, do you think the overseas audience are now accepting a change in cinema by not being tempted by just candy floss films?
I've always believed that a good film works and a bad film doesn't. Movies like Black, Sarkar and Sarkar Raj which are songless films have proved that they can collect huge amounts of money at the box office and do extremely well. All these films have gone down as one of the highest grossing films of that particular year. Having said that, I do believe that there is a bit of a glass ceiling. We as Indians want to see certain elements in our films. We love our song, our dance, our emotion, and if you see the trend, it's not only about candy floss films. It's about a film which has poetic justice. Song, dance and emotions are the three strong pillars of Indian films which I think are required and that's when your audience opens up. So although I think Sarkar Raj did break the shackles last year, it will still take more time until the overseas completely accepts a songless film.
So is it right to say that Delhi 6 has all the three pillars?
You're right. Delhi 6 is a very commercial film. It's got its song, dance and emotions but it's also got a new narrative. I think Delhi 6 will appeal to both Indian and the overseas audiences because of its strong narrative.
Please share with us your unforgettable experience working with Waheeda-ji and Rishi-ji.
(smiles) They are two of my favourites. I've worked with Waheeda aunty before in Om Jai Jagdish. It was a sheer honour to work with her again. She is the most dignified and beautiful lady on Earth. She's such a wonderful person to be on the sets with. She has this aura about her which lights up everyone's life and I can't be more privileged that I have already done two films with her. Actors go through their entire career not having an opportunity to work with her because she doesn't do lot of work. I was very excited that she had agreed to do Delhi 6. I was equally, if not slightly, more excited about Chintu uncle because he was my childhood hero. If there was anybody after dad for me, it was Chintu uncle. So there I was, with one of my childhood idols. Guess what; he didn't let me down at all in terms of whatever I expected of him in the screen space I share with him in the film. He is sheer brilliance. He is so effortless yet stylish and just the class with which he pulls off his performances is commendable and makes you very envious.
It's been ages that we Indians have played that one song in every marriage taking place in India. The last one I remember was 'Didi Tera Dewar Deewana' from Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. I guess 'Genda Phool' has arrived with a bang.
(smiles) What's wonderful about Genda Phool as oppose to the rest of the album is that it's a fantastic fusion between a folk song and a modern orchestration and production. What's heartening about Genda Phool is that it makes you feel that India still has its heart in its roots. You give them (audience) something which is embedded in Indian culture; they're going to go for it. I'm so happy about that. It's an old folk song which Rahman and his team reproduced with the infusion of modern beats. The song epitomises the India of today.