‘I honestly respect and cherish each award’

‘I honestly respect and cherish each award’

DIFF’s Life Time Achievement honouree and Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan shares his passion for cinema with City Times

By Davina Raisinghani

Published: Thu 10 Dec 2009, 8:13 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:20 PM

IT’S QUITE INTERESTING, and even mildly amusing, to watch people respond to a request made by Amitabh Bachchan.

Right before our interview with the legendary actor hits the floor, he signals for one of the staff onsite at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) to bring him a glass of hot water. And when there’s a slight flurry of activity to ensure his request is promptly fulfilled, he seems almost embarrassed for having caused a fuss, no matter how trivial.

That’s the general impression India’s biggest superstar (unrivalled, no less) gives off: he’s well aware of his self-importance, but he’d rather you don’t make too much of a scene about it.

Currently, Bachchan is in town to make a brand new addition to his proverbial mantle, a Lifetime Achievement Award which he will collect during the course of DIFF. But one quite frankly wonders, with so many accolades under his belt, do they grow insignificant as they increase in number?

“No, not at all,” replies the actor with a sincere smile. “I honestly respect and cherish each award that I receive — and I’m quite honoured to be receiving one from Dubai, because it’s a show of affection that the people feel for me.

“Abhishek will be joining me here but Jaya is in parliament and Aishwarya is shooting, so they won’t be able to make it,” he adds on which members of his celebrity-ridden family will be accompanying him on the red carpet.

The award definitely couldn’t be more perfectly timed, now that Bachchan has just completed what he believes to be the role of a lifetime — that of a 13-year-old child suffering from progeria (a rare premature ageing disease) in filmmaker R. Balakrishnan’s Paa.

The movie, which released last week, has since played host to a mixed bag of reviews. But one thing’s for certain, every critic in sight has praised Bachchan for his flawless performance as Auro.

“I think that whatever Balki set out to do was achieved. I must admit that when he first came to me with the idea, I liked it immediately — the concept and the story as well — but I was very apprehensive about how he would convert me into a 13-year-old,” says the 67-year-old actor, who despite his initial reluctance pulled off the considerably younger character with his customary conviction.

“I do think it turned out rather well. I very much doubt that we’ve ever had such a role in Indian cinema where you never ever get to see the real face of the artist throughout the length of the film.

“Historically, it’s also the first film in which a father and son are playing each other’s roles,” further comments the actor with due pride.

Bachchan then takes a slight pause during the course of our conversation to collect himself; it’s been a long flight — delayed due to technical hitches in Mumbai and the sand storm engulfing Dubai at the time.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t the DIFF organisers who conveyed this piece of information to the waiting press (a delay of an hour-and-a-half does make for a bit of grumpy crowd), but a quick perusal of the celebrity’s blog, which he updated whilst aboard the plane to the UAE.

“I write everyday. Today is day number 595. When I finish my day, I sit up in bed and write. Or sometimes even in the middle of the day, if I get the opportunity, I update,” comments the actor.

So what is it that has the Big B frequently glued to this popular online networking tool?

“Unfortunately I had a very long period of disconnect from the media — almost 18 years — due to some peculiar misunderstandings. But now with the advent of the net and access to blogging I can communicate with the rest of the world. I find the blog a fantastic and wonderful way to connect to my fans and listen to their responses.”

He then continues to ramble off some extraordinary numbers: every single blog post on his site gets roughly five to six hundred responses, 30 to 35 thousand visits everyday and about 3 million visits every month.

“That’s a large family; and I do think of them as my extended family. I talk about my work, my father and we even discuss poetry. If I weren’t to do this, I would miss it terribly.”

Next in line for Bachchan is the release of a film helmed once again by Ram Gopal Varma entitled Rann. This marks the sixth film that the duo will be seen collaborating on. Other famous ones include The Godfather-inspired hit drama, Sarkar, its lesser successful sequel Sarkar Raj and the catastrophic Sholay remake, Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag.

Rann also features actors Ritesh Deshmukh, Sudeep, Gul Panag and Paresh Rawal.

The plot of the tale focuses on the concept of how media deals with the perpetual trade-off between satisfying its conscience and running a successful business. Bachchan plays a media baron who owns a TV channel.

“We must have a media. They are the conscience of the nation. They perceive and analyse aspects that we are unable to. They guide us and tell us where we should be correcting ourselves,” muses the actor, outlining his perception of the industry.

Bachchan will also soon be seen in producer Ambika Hinduja and director Leela Yadav’s Teen Patti. Loosely inspired from 21, the script of the film follows a math professor who discovers, quite by accident, a formula whereby he is able to win at poker. He then shares this theory with some of his juniors and they decide to test it out in the real world.

While an interesting plot, Bachchan was more excited about working with an actor he personally admires: Sir Ben Kingsley.

“He’s an Oscar-winning actor, a lovely human being and always very well prepared. Not only that, but he’s humble, cooperative and a delight to work with. He’s a true professional.

“We spent a few days in London working in a rather upscale casino and then we went to Cambridge to film a few sequences there. It was a joy to be standing in front of the camera with him and standing in his reflected glory,” recalls Bachchan.

The star further claims that he also quite enjoyed working with actor R .Madhavan: “Maddy has many extra curricular activities. He’s very fond of fast-moving vehicles, he flies model planes and he plays fantastic golf. One of the locations we were filming at in Pune had a very massive golf course. And he actually took me down there and we played a game or two.”

Lastly, we quizzed the head of the Bachchan clan on whether its four members would ever be seen working on a project together, to which he replies with a “if the opportunity comes our way then why not? Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet.”

What ruffles Big B’s feathers?

DURING DIFF’S FIRST press conference of the year, held in honour of Amitabh Bachchan receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, he was asked a rather rude question — ‘You act in an industry that belongs to a third world, but isn’t it true that your exposure in the West is limited?’

“We’re very happy right now doing what we are in India. And we also like to work with the West. But the number of people watching Indian cinema today are more than that watching Hollywood films — 3.8 billion, I believe. We don’t make as much money; but we’re getting there,” replied the actor after grimacing. Ensuing was a room full of impressed applause.

What’s the word — don’t say ‘Bollywood’

“’Bollywood’ was a derogatory term used by some smart journalist who wanted to please his boss,” said the actor at his press conference with visible distaste. “Now its been added to the Oxford Dictionary and we’re going to be stuck with it for an eternity.”


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