I want my father's poem sung: Amitabh on 66th birthday

Mumbai, Oct 11 (IANS) His father's poetry and some dry fruits - that is all that Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan wants on his 66th birthday Saturday.

"Instead of a cake, I would prefer a large portion of mevaa (dry fruits), followed by the singing of a wonderful poem written by my father," Amitabh told IANS in an interview.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan used to recite a new poem for Amitabh on his birthday since childhood. However, the occasion closest to his heart is when his father broke down while reciting his poem on Oct 11, 1982, after Amitabh survived a near fatal accident.

"After my accident in 1982, when my father traditionally recited the poem he had written for me and broke down while reciting it. A very rare sight...I never saw him moved to tears on any occasion."

This year, it will be a quiet birthday for Amitabh since his mother Teji Bachchan passed away in December 2007.

He said: "It has not been a year since my mother passed away, so it will be quiet and without celebration. I will remain home and spend time with the family, but meet those that may take the trouble of wishing me."

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: Do you enjoy getting extra attention on your birthday?

A: Attention of any kind embarrasses me. But I respect the attention that comes my way as a result of another year having gone by. The attention given by the family, fans and well-wishers. The poems they write, the banners they make, the flowers they gather. Just such a warm and embracing feeling. So much love. I have never thought myself to be worthy of such attention.

Q: How will you be bringing in your birthday this year?

A: It has not been a year since my mother passed away, so it will be quiet and without celebration. I will remain home and spend time with the family, but meet those that may take the trouble of wishing me.

Q: Do you like the thought of an extra candle on your cake? Are you a cake-balloon-candles kind of person?

A: This age-old custom of the cake and candles is a cute gesture, but it has now lost its charm for me.

I would prefer a large portion of mevaa (dry fruits), followed by the singing of a wonderful poem written by my father for occasions such as this - "Harsh nav, varsh nav, jeevan utkarsh nav". I remember my parents singing it on one of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's birthday's at the Teen Murti House.

Q: Have you ever had friends and family throw a surprise birthday party for you?

A: Yes. It was in Los Angeles, when I had gone there for treatment and rest after my myasthenia episode. Jaya and a close friend took me for a drive to an almost deserted hotel and suddenly threw the doors open to a massive hall, where almost half the Indian community had assembled to wish me. Oh, It was unbelievable!

Q: What is the earliest memory you have of a birthday?

A: The earliest would be of Allahabad. The common friends, the fancy-dress party, the food and of course the gifts that we, at that age, always looked forward to.

Q: Did your parents celebrate the birthdays of you and your brother with fanfare?

A: Yes. Whatever was economically possible for them. You must remember my father was a man of limited means. He always wrote a fresh poem for me on the day and my mother would bring in all the cheer and fanfare.

Q: Which was the most memorable birthday you've ever had?

A: One of the most memorable was after my accident in 1982, when my father broke down while reciting the poem he had written for me. A very rare sight...I never saw him moved to tears on any occasion. But Oct 11, 1982, was a date many felt I would not be alive to witness.

The second most memorable birthday was my 60th birthday and the effort that Jaya made. The book she brought out, "To B or not to B", and the labour that went into it and the arrangements she made for celebrating the evening with the industry and friends. Overwhelming.

Q: Which is the best birthday gift you've ever received?

A: I receive it every birthday - the love and affection of the people of this country. Apart from the love and presence of my family.

Q: Looking back on the year, which was the one most memorable event for you?

A: The Unforgettable Tour.

Q: What are the projects that we can look forward to seeing you in ?

A: I have "Aladdin" for release early next year, "Teen Patti" and "Pa" and a film by Pritish Nandy and by Rakyesh Mehra.

Q: Finally, what is your one wish on this birthday?

A: Peace, harmony, brotherhood, friendship and trust. And strength from the almighty for all to accomplish this.

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