The man who popped out of a gigantic egg and sang with ease such bombastic gibberish in the film Amar, Akbar, Anthony,"wait, wait,wait.... you see the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisiticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your verbosity....''or played with equal ease the part of a brooding anti-hero in Namak Haram, or the jealous type in Abhimaan and more recently the sensitive teacher in Black, is the one-man industry `Bachchanwood' who has entertained the world for decades.
In Munnar, for the shooting of Ram Gopal Varma's "bold and different'' film Nishabd, Amitabh Bachchan chatted with a few journalists at Hotel Tea County late at night, after a hard day's shoot. The casual atmosphere in the room was only seemingly casual. Bachchan was in control as he led us down memory lane reflecting on the best and the worst periods of his career.
He joked, laughed and patiently answered the journalist's queries. But this fantastic actor never let his guard down. Yes, it's true he does not like you to breach the barrier of cordiality.
( And Still groovy!!!!)
Sixty four-year-old Bachchan, who has done about 150 films in various genres, reminisced about his long association with Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He said it's a pity such kind of cinema is non-existent now. ``The largest number of films I did was with him.''
(We miss the guy too.)
He refused to pick three of his favourite films from his vast oeuvre, he considered them all important. His association with different directors punctuated the different phases in his acting career: ``Salim-Javed, Prakash Mehra, Manmohan Desai, Ramesh Sippy, Mukul Anand and the next generation with Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra and now the new directors.''
The big daddy of cinema then went on to generously extol the energy and attitude of the new generation. ``The average age on the sets is about 21-22.'' Bachchan pointed out, ``There are lot more girls on the sets now. We never had that before. Behind the camera, in production, line producers, hair stylists, film designers...this is fantastic.''
End of Formula films? Thank god!
Dwelling on the changing tastes of viewers, Bachchan hinted at theimpending demise of formula films, ``There is a marked change in theaudience, they are dictating and rejecting harshly. What may havesucceeded in other parts of the country may not succeed in a literatestate like Kerala. Films were designed with something in it toplease everyone . But now audiences have matured and they can no longer be fooled.''
(You bet. We have had our fill of formula muck. Burp!)
Ha ! Ha! Ha!
It is no secret that Bachchan reinvented himself to pull both his image and his company AB Corp (formerly known as ABCL) out of the doldrums, transforming with ease from an actor into a quiz master. His stylish anchoring of the KBC programmme was a runaway success. However, when thequestion ``how do you reinvent yourself each time you have problem?'' wasposed to him, pat came his joking reply: ``I have only been invented once.''
He then laughed, thoroughly enjoying his own wit- perhaps the only moment he totally forgot himself. Bachchan was then back to his cool and composed self.
The question had to be rephrased and spelt out - his health, financial and political problems? Bachchan was honest about AB Corp's past and elaborated, ``I felt terribly self-conscious because I owed money but I worked at it and we are out of the red now.'' AB Corp, he said, was envisagedin 1992-93 when he was informed that American entertainment companies were looking at India as a new frontier. Bachchan got his act together and designed a vision to create ABC. ``Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan are two individuals who are contracted to the company,'' he said. The businessman in Bachchan explained that all the money received by them as artists and from endorsements went into the company. ``Two films Virrudh and Family under the banner of AB Corp were released last year but it failed to make an impact,'' said the actor. ``But AB Corp has started making profits now.''
All praise for Mohanlal
The actor was all praise for the Malayalam superstar Mohanlal who is to act with him in the remake of Sholay. ``He is really a fantastic actor.'' He stressed that Mohanlal has a certain quality, ``he could be doing the most dramatic movement but he does it very naturally.''
"But don't ask me to name the films- I cannot pronounce them right."
And is the Big B going to be a brand ambassador for Kerala tourism?
``I have read about it in the papers but no one has asked me yet."
Who has time for Hobbies?
``I don't have time for that."
The passion for acting was never diluted by trivial pursuits.
A prominent protagonist of the history of Indian cinema, the actor felt that his roles were now restricted due to the age factor. But Bachchan is not sticking to stereotypical fatherly roles. His performances in Sarkar and Black prove that different periods in life can open the gates to newer languages of expression. Nishabd, which is said to be of the erotic genre, promises to be excitingly different. In cinema for over three decades, Amitabh Bachchan still has a long way to go and a lot more to explore.
The saga of Big B will go on.
(First Published by The New Indian Express. Changes have been made.)
Beyond the lines:
A journalist enthusiastically said,"We thought you would be too tired. We didn't expect you to spend so much of time with us."
The reply from the man: "Why dont you just finish this off."