Thursday January 23, 2020

Originality is a Dichotomous Terminology, Says Megastar Amitabh Bachchan

Now that you have completed 50 years of acting, is there a memorable character beyond the ubiquitous Vijay, one that is embedded in your memory recesses

0
//
Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan (Wikimedia Commons)

By Sandeep Bamzai

In today’s times we all have to sing for our supper, says Amitabh Bachchan, as he completes 50 years of acting, in an exclusive interview with IANS.

The voice in your ear has a certain crispness to it, over time, it has become gruffer, sand papery and rasping. It is one of India’s most precious baritones, a ne plus ultra, mono typical and unique. As he mouths a dialogue for his new thriller ‘Badla’, the growly voice resonates in my echo chamber: ‘me vo 6 dekhu jo tum dikha rahi ho ya vo 9 jo mujhe dekhna hai”! It has a different quality about it, you don’t need surround sound to support it, it stays with your residual memory. Amitabh Bachchan and his craft has captivated several generations now, ageless as he is, the thespian has completed 50 years in an industry which he straddles like a colossus.

At the outset, Mr Bachchan in his interview with IANS wanted to send a message over something that has caused him great pain and distress in recent memory: “Before all else, come laden with our hearts and mind in condolence and prayers for the brave hearts we lost in Pulwama, and the brave hearts that fight and protect us each hour for our safety and security!”

During the course of the interview, there are many matter of fact, phlegmatic and perfunctory replies from one of the most popular film stars of our time, the strong underpinning of modesty coming through at all times. Very clear that the aura and adulation is undeserved, he reckons, but fanboys and fan girls think otherwise. Epithets, hyperbole and verbosity have come his way, but he wonders why, such is the self-effacement and humility. Yet people remain in his thrall. The Inquilab in him (name given to him at birth by his father Harivansh Rai Bachchan, but later changed to Amitabh at the behest of Sr Mr Bachchan’s poet-friend, remains undimmed searching for fulfillment as an actor.

Excerpts:

*How would you describe your 50-year journey from the time Abbas Saheb picked a young man from Calcutta to be one of Saat Hindustani? To Sujoy Ghosh and Badla…

Another day another job then … But I have worked in the past with Sujoy, I liked the story and the director, the element of suspense and thrill in the story line got to me. Sujoy has made Kahaani and is restless, seeking perfection from his artistes, very clear in his thought process and how he wants to roll with it. He is understands the grammar of cinema intelligently.

*A fulfilling journey where you have worked with great directors and actors, would you say Hrishida and Pran are your favourites, they were both lucky for you in different ways…you made 10 films with Hrishida?

Every director, actor, writer, producer, colleague that I have worked with shall ever remain my favourites …

*Lots of top American actors pursued the method acting model as crafted by Lee Strasberg whom we then saw as Hyman Roth in Godfather 2 pitted against his pupil Al Pacino, it was riveting cinema. When you hit your strides, did you take acting classes or consciously or unconsciously imitate someone or does anyone influence your work?

No, I never took any acting lessons, nor did I consciously or unconsciously imitate someone, unless asked by my makers to do so .. and there were a few such occasions! I have no idea on the method of acting, and have never taken or hit any strides.

Pink Movie
Amitabh Bachchan. Pink

*Whose work do you admire in Hollywood? Christopher Plummer is ageless and seems to be getting better…ditto for Clint Eastwood more as a director though? Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, James Dean …

*One hears of Ranveer Singh living and breathing his roles these days…or getting into character, I am sure many of your roles would have required major preparation, for instance ‘Pa’ or ‘Black’, if you could explain your craft for such difficult roles?

I have no craft and no idea of what the others do in what they do so brilliantly .. I have followed as diligently as possible the written words of the writer, and the direction given to me by the directors! For ‘BLACK’, we learnt the sign language of the differently-abled! ‘Badla’ is a different genre, a thriller which for years now has hooked us, for someone of my generation, ‘Mahal’ remains embedded in memory recesses since it was a cult film from 1949 starring Ashok Kumar and Madhubala with seminal music. They have been part and parcel of Hindi cinema’s strong fabric. Obviously Alfred Hitchcock was the master of this genre. Thrillers are an integral part of the history of universal cinema. (In his formative years Mr Bachchan himself acted in two very powerful suspense thrillers — ‘Parwana and Gehri Chaal’.)

*You have always said that you have been fortunate in your acting career — me akela hi chala ja rha tha, log judte chale gaye aur karvan banta chala gaya — is that the credo that has determined your life?

I do not know the meaning of credo in my profession .. I do know that I have been fortunate …

*During a large part of your peak years, you actually had a very difficult relationship with media, including a major part when media boycotted you…and you now have a fabulous relationship with media. Explain this paradox, and did you work towards bridging the divide, what led to it in the first place?

I am certain you are more than aware that one can never be too close to the media or too far away from them! The media is the fourth estate, the conscience of the nation. I shall have the capacity, or the audacity to live with my conscience, but not that of the media’s. It would be foolish of me to think so.

*Fifty years of greasepaint and yet the fire remains undiminished. Where do you get your energy from? Or is it respect for work which defines your underlying ethic?

I am at loss as to why you or many others ask me this question?

*In the immediate years after ‘Saat Hindustani’, there were many flops but some seminal work even in a small role in Sunil Dutt’s ‘Reshma aur Shera’, memories of that experience and any other before ‘Anand’?

Just the desire to be able to get another job. Most of the times there was failure …

Black
Amitabh Bachchan. Twitter

*Back in Sherwood, did you do any Shakespeare in school, somewhere in your baritone and acting, there is a touch of the thespian which emerges in many of your recent films, is it right to make this connection?

No, never did Shakespeare in school …

*Now that you have completed 50 years of acting, is there a memorable character beyond the ubiquitous Vijay, one that is embedded in your memory recesses and why, I have many favourites…

No I have none …

*Is Hindi cinema in good hands with a New Gen of young directors and actors and middle-of-the-road cinema and actors like Ranveer Singh, Ayushmaan Khurana, Alia Bhatt, Rajkumar or even the Sher from ‘Gully Boy’ telling simple tales that resonate with people? Biopics or true life stories with a slight amount of poetic licence seem to be doing well, Akshay has perfected this art form, you too are doing ‘Jhund’ with Nagraj Manjule. Tell us if this is due to the absence of original scripts or they are the flavour of the season.

Times and circumstances change. They change for every profession too. Films are no different. The present generation is an audacious package of incredible talent! I am in immense admiration of them, and am fortunate that I get to play a small part in their company. It is an education for me. They provide a different and alternative world-view and this is educative. Never ever underestimate the credibility, dexterity, adroitness and skill of the writers and makers of today’s entertainment world. They have been the reason and cause of the flourish and proliferated blossoming in our creativity for the past 100 + years! To have a meaning and standing after 100 years is not a joke. It deserves respect and dignity. Originality is a dichotomous terminology. It needs to be used and expressed most carefully!

*Do you get irritated with the fact that now actors have to sing for their supper as in market and promote their films aggressively and devote a lot of time and energy which wasn’t the case when you were the undisputed ‘Shahenshah’. How and why have things changed in tactics?

Look around and about you, dear sir .. not just actors, but does not everyone in today’s times have to sing for their supper?

*From eight releases in a year in your time, the stars now do one movie in a year or even two years, is this a function of New Age commerce?

It is a recognition of better management, both financial and personal. The good thing is that music and melody are back in Hindi cinema, Music is enjoyed by one and all, music plucks the chords and strings of our souls.

*From the age of parallel cinema to small cinema like ‘Raazi’ and ‘Badhai Ho’ taking on pulp, how has Hindi cinema evolved? Has the palate of Hindi filmgoers changed or has the definition of pulp itself changed?

Also Read- Facebook Pulls Down Fake Accounts Spreading Hate in UK

I do not know what is ‘pulp’ or ‘parallel’. Cinema is cinema — size and girth, small or big are measurement tags on apparel. The palate of every generation in every corner of the world, changes, not just for film but for every walk of life!

*Any memories of ‘Geraftar’ for that is probably the only movie where Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and you shared screen space?

It was an honour, privilege and a most humbling experience, to be in the same film as Rajni and Kamal. (IANS)

Next Story

B-Town Film Stars are Better Social Media Warriors

The filmi social media warriors

0
Social Media
Film personalities are most likely to use social media to raise awareness and share opinions. Pixabay

BY VINOD MIRANI

India as a country has been making definitive changes in the way it works. Drastic laws are being planned and huge protests are being launched. As it seems, some vital and long overdue changes are being put in place. There are those who approve and there are the ones who don’t.

Earlier, as it happens in most democracies, these debates and oppositions were limited to Parliament. Yes, some protests did come out in the streets, but then the reasons were often justified.

Now, all sorts of opinions, accusations and oppositions, have started coming up on the outlets of social media, especially Twitter. And most vocal on social media seem to be some film personalities. It is not as if they take a stand against all the wrongdoings that happens around us or in India in general. None of the things they opine affects them directly or indirectly. In fact, when a matter affects the film industry, or one of them personally, they have nothing to say, for or against. A recent example is that of actor Payal Rohtagi. She was arrested and put in jail for nine days because she posted something against erstwhile Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. There was no protest from the social media coterie against this. Nobody raised the intolerance issue!

They are too busy worrying about national issues to spare time for fellow actors. In my column last week, I wrote about filmstars endorsing brands, and the idea was to convey that they don’t really help sell a product. Same is the case on social media. At times, it is also television where these film people get to air their views. But, television does not care to indulge smalltimers who raise issues, while the print media gives them space as and when. What happens is that, two sides take positions and that finally leads to mudslinging and name-calling.

Kangana Ranaut social media
Kangana Ranaut always takes up the cudgels on social media for issues against the biggest of bosses of the film world. Wikimedia Commons

Protesting is a way of life in a democratic country. However, this is about the film folk airing their opinions they can well avoid.

Suddenly, they become experts on just about everything that happens in the country, though what they demonstrate through their arguments is a total lack of knowledge as well as low IQ level. They always seem to be in a great hurry to react to everything that happens around them, especially what governments do. Never care to verify the details.

What has been observed from the posts of the self-styled experts on all the issues is that, their careers in filmdom are in the doldrums or are limited to an insignificant level. Only social media keeps them in the public eye — not that it amounts to much. Because, whatever little following they enjoy on Twitter never reflects on their box-office draw. Twitter following does not materialise in ticket sales at a cinema.

Talking of ‘following’ on social media, it does not actually reflect popularity. People follow to check on you, to counter you, abuse you or just as a pastime. Talking of ‘following’, can any of these create a following in real life and lead a crusade? The other day, Farhan Akhtar went and joined a protest meet at Mumbai’s August Kranti ground. Now, that is like boarding a running train, a photo-op.

Looks like Twitter has become the hotbed for venting frustrations as well as drawing attention. The print and the electronic media being what they are now, amplify the views posted on social media and takes them further to a larger audience. They plan their evening debates on Twitter posts! The problem with TV and print media is that they have slots to fill and, for that, anything goes.

There were occasions like demonetisation, GST, Article 370 and, now the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). And, soon as the Bill was passed in both houses of Parliament, the coterie got busy on Twitter. No matter what it was, no matter the details. They had to oppose it! The only place where their posts were acknowledged was on TV debates.

Aamir khan social media
Aamir Khan doesn’t use social media to voice his opinions. Wikimedia Commons

Major stars who matter — like Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone — are among the most followed twitterati in the country from the film field. Why are none of these crusaders rated among the top? And, the most followed don’t get involved in petty social media posts. They know they can’t indulge in arguments with nonentities who seek attention. They also know there is nothing to defend from these crusaders.

However, there is one person, Kangana Ranaut, who always takes up the cudgels on social media for issues against the biggest of bosses of the film world. According to her, those who don’t react are cowards. That is not really true, every dignified and successful film personality cannot get into an argument with somebody on the basis of his or her posts on social media.

There have been a few dissenting voices from some actors like Aamir Khan and Naseeruddin Shah. Not on Twitter but in public. Shah, who played a man blowing up terrorists in “A Wednesday” in 2008, thought his family was not safe in India. If you read his biography, he is not even a first-generation Indian! Then there was Aamir Khan whose wife feared for her family in India! He lost some ad-assignments as a result. Earlier, he had joined forces with social activist Medha Patkar, suggesting the blocking of Sardar Sarovar Dam. His film, “Fanaa”, and the film’s producer (YRF) paid the price, since the film could not be released in Gujarat. I’m not sure if Aamir even knew the background of the project!

Eventually, he ended up making a fool of himself. He was anchoring a TV serial, “Satyamev Jayate”, based on social issues or injustice done to a common man. May be, he expected his standing up against Sardar Sarovar would further his image as a crusader for the deprived! At times, stars use such public platforms to promote their films. At most times, such ideas backfire.

Also Read- I Don’t have Enough Knowledge to Comment About CAA: Taapsee Pannu

Amitabh Bachchan was among the first to take to the Internet when he started writing a blog which he still continues. Writing a blog needs content and a valid topic. Not many who do the rabble-rousing on Twitter will do so because that would need elaborating on what they want to convey. On Twitter, it is easy because there is a limit on characters one needs to use, so no need to use brains.

The irony is those who cry about democracy being in danger and complain about freedom of expression enjoy all the benefits of both — democracy as well as freedom of all kinds. Save for a few, no wonder, filmstars turned crusaders are not taken seriously. (IANS)