By Hindustan Times
He’ll be 70 years old in a few days, and has worked in the film industry for 43 years. With so many years of media interest behind him, by now, it seems as though there’s very little left for Amitabh Bachchan to tell the world.
He’s also not known to let the media fully into his life. Though I’ve been interacting with him for 16 years, and though he’s been unfailingly courteous, the tone of our interviews has always largely been selective and monosyllabic. Getting him to speak about himself and his inner world is quite a task.
So I’m not quite certain how this interview will go when I meet Mr Bachchan at Janak, the building where his office is located. But to my own surprise, I return satisfied. With the television industry revitalised by his presence on Kaun Banega Crorepati, and filmmakers like Sujoy Ghosh, R Balki and Prakash Jha still writing scripts with him in mind, it’s clear that AB isn’t going to hang up his boots any time soon.
Mr Bachchan, your pictures cover every wall in your homes (Pratiksha and Jalsa) and your office, (Janak). How come?
People give them to me! So Jaya puts them up everywhere. I think it’s nice!
Where do you find solitude?
It looks as though your larger than life persona follows you everywhere. I don’t look at it that way. When I want to spend time by myself I write, read or watch TV and my family understands. But most of the time, I don’t like to be alone. I want my family to be around me. Even if I am working, it’s nice if they come and just sit around. Sometimes I call them myself and we just sit in silence, not talking to each other. My family has been my support system all along.
Was it always like this or is this a side-effect of age?
Amitabh Bachchan with actress Sridevi on the sets of KBC
I have always shared everything with my family. I trust them, seek answers from them and like spending time with them. When my parents were alive I would be with them, and now that they are no more, I have to assume the responsibility of a senior in the family. I talk to them, sometimes I get good inputs and carry on in my life.
Has the burden of this famous surname – Bachchan – been too heavy for your son Abhishek?
No, why would I think in such a way? Hard work is what is most important and I am happy that he has learnt it in his own way. Wherever he has reached, he has done it in his own strength. God willing, there are many more years for him, so we don’t know!
That’s a lovely thought! But does it sadden you that he hasn’t got to where you are?
I am just happy that he performs well. I’m satisfied with his work and that he is on the right path. Success and failure will happen to everybody and we cannot judge somebody’s career according to that. If we didn’t have failures we would be abnormal people. I think we are normal people and we face failures and successes. Life is only about how we conduct ourselves, whether we are good human beings or not. And I would be happy if he is just a good human being! When somebody tells you how well you have brought up your son and daughter, and how well-behaved they are… that is like a super successful film for me.
On his younger leading ladies
‘Was very raw in Boom’
Her first film, Boom (2003), was with me. She was unaware of what was happening or what the film industry was all about! The director had even stopped her from looking at her shots on the monitor. She was very innocent, very raw and didn’t know the language. I must give credit to her for coming here, working really hard and making a mark like no other leading lady, and all without knowing the language! I think she’s made remarkable progress. Later, she worked with us in Sarkar (2005).
‘A warm-hearted girl, lovely face’
She has a cinema lineage. I heard much later she wanted to be an actress even when she was very young. She is a remarkable artist and a warm-hearted girl with a lovely face. Now she is related to us through my daughter Shetwa, who is married to Ritu Nanda’s son.
‘She has come up the hard way’
I worked with her in Waqt. She’s also come up the hard way. Not having a mentor in the industry and then to have succeeded on her own is commendable. She’s exemplary in Barfi!, and it’s nice to see her trying out different roles successfully. She just brought out an album, I think it’s remarkable!
‘A girl with deep sensitivity about her culture’
She too started very small, but has grown beautifully. When I first saw her in Parineeta (2005), I thought she was marvellous. A wonderful girl with deep sensitivity about her culture, and a great actress. I worked with her in Eklavya (2007) and Paa (2009). I wish we could do more films together.
‘I quite like the idea of growing old’
At 70, what do fame, power, money and family mean to you? Which are the priorities?
Family first. Money, fame and power I don’t believe in, so I won’t even consider them. And fans, yes. I admire them for their continued affection.
Do you get time to meet your relatives?
Of course. Relatives from my father’s and mother’s side visit us from time to time. The meetings are always nice and warm.
After 43 years in the industry, have you come across anyone who can give you a tough fight?
I am just a proud member of the film fraternity and truly happy to be here. And I have never conducted myself as wanting to be somebody or thinking that somebody has to be me.
Everyone is a superstar in my eyes. I think they are all wonderful ladies and
gentlemen who have excelled themselves in their craft. We don’t work in that fashion, at least I don’t. I am happy to be doing my work.
Would you ever remake any of your movies?
I hope I don’t have to do that. I believe once a film is made, it should be left untouched. Remaking is not a good idea. But I will not object if somebody wants to do it, as I don’t hold the rights to my films. I would rather do something fresh and new than remake my own stories. That’s because I wouldn’t be able to do it honestly — I was young then, and now I am older.
You’ve been called the Angry Young Man, the Emperor of the Industry, the Shahenshah, etc. If you could sum yourself up in one sentence, what would that be?
Those titles and monikers are given by the media, so you should be the one summing me up. I am just another human being, working as an actor. I am a normal, mediocre actor, just like anybody else.
Are you worried about old age?
Old age is something we won’t be able to battle. Everyone has to go through it and anxieties are the first thing to hit. You would worry whether you have managed to settle your parents, your wife, your children and grandchildren. You may perhaps be in a
position to ensure that they are happy and content. That’s what we work for. Next is health. We try as much as possible to remain healthy. But these are things bound to happen to everyone. When it happens, we deal with it, and if we survive it, we continue working and if it doesn’t, we stop.
What’s the best thing about getting older?
Experience, I guess. The number of years that you’ve lived, seen incidents, learned from them and perhaps been able to pass on to the following generations. They don’t have the experience of age. But at times, experience is not enough. Sometimes the younger generation comes up with evidence of thoughts and conduct which is even more mature than your own.
And the bad side of ageing?
I quite like the idea of growing old. It’s a natural phenomenon. Your body will slow down, you may not be able to climb steps as fast as you would want, you won’t be able to see as clearly, etc. These are physical attributes you begin to lose. I won’t call it bad, I would call it nature taking its own course. So long it doesn’t happen out of turn, it’s okay.
After Aaradhya, are you looking forward to a grandson?
Not really. I will accept anything; I am not particular about genders.
In your eyes, who is the most beautiful woman?
All women are beautiful and will always remain so. They all have individual charm and appeal.
On packing 48 hours in a day:
I have a lot of work commitments and I still want more time for them. There’s office, film shootings, family and personal things that one has to do...
Commitments, engagements, etc. So much to do and so little time. But I make sure I give my body the amount of sleep it requires.
On family and work:
Just being with the children, the grandchildren, and the hope of going to work every day... I am happy with these thoughts.
Aaradhya should be a good human being. For me, that’s what matters. Only Aishwarya and Abhishek will be able to tell you about her future plans and her education.