he chatted on the Net with fans, he ate, he swivelled between three chairs. The film he was promoting then, like most of his first twenty films, bombed. But Abhishek emerged unscathed and jubilant, the darling of the masses, loved for his good looks and the sense of fun he brings to even morbid roles like the sociopath Lallan he essayed in Yuva. You can tell right away here's an actor relishing the part, and you enjoy the ride with him.
This time round, Abhishek is promoting Bluffmaster. I remind him of the other interviews and he asks with mock seriousness. "So should I do that kind of interview, or the boring, serious one?"
Eventually it turns out to be a good blend of both.
Asked about his performance in the latest feature, he replies, "The role of Roy in Bluffmaster required no research. It came my way by default. It was only two weeks before we started shooting that I was pencilled in to play Roy. It wasn't too tough — Roy isn't some village con artist, so there were no accents or dialects to learn. He is a smooth urban conman. I simply followed Rohan's directions.
"Rohan originally had Sunjay Dutt in mind for the role of Roy when the story was being developed. I was to be cast as the moronic sidekick Dittu. The shooting was scheduled to start by January 2006 but owing to unforeseen circumstances we had to rush headlong into production starting mid June and wrap up by August 2005. Just two weeks before we started shooting, Rohan offered me the role of Roy and Riteish Deshmukh for Dittu."
What about that jest on chat show Koffee with Karan about being ready to romance Priyanka Chopra, anytime, anywhere? (This was before Bluffmaster and working with her) Did he follow up on it? "No that was just a playful jokey kind of answer, not to be taken seriously. Priyanka is a wonderful girl, and a great actress. We had lots of fun during the shoot. No affair though."
This is his second film with buddy Rohan Sippy at the helm. What did he learn about his friend? "Nothing Rohan did came as a surprise to me. He's the same confident, cool guy I know. I know he's done a brilliant job and am very happy for him."
Rohan also credits Abhishek with being a major contributor to the final form of the crackling, eclectic Bluffmaster soundtrack. "Not at all. That's just Rohan being his usual generous self, protective about his actors and friends. Bluffmaster is totally his vision, his baby. I had a small part to play in the album — in rendering one song in my tuneless voice." The lad is being funny again. Right Here Now is a huge hit, despite the off-key vocals.
Although he only entered films five years ago, he's been part of the film industry since childhood, having two great actors as parents. So what are the big changes he's witnessed in the way the industry works? "I think the biggest changes have been wrought by the multiplexes and satellite television. They have drastically changed moviemaking. The audiences are exposed to world class entertainment on satellite television, and the bar has been raised for the movie makers. As for multiplexes, they ensure that there's an audience for offbeat films that couldn't have brought people into theatres earlier. I detest the word 'crossover films', but good, well-made Hindi films are being seen by audiences outside India too."
So as Hindi films get increasingly global will they also follow industry trends elsewhere in the world, where they are not totally dependent on theatre audiences to bring in the bucks? "While its true that Hindi movies nowadays are made for audiences that are not confined to India, they are still dependant on the theatre for revenues. The promotions and the videos are meant to attract audiences to the theatres."
While father Amitabh Bachchan's diverticulitis is strictly off limits, one cannot resist asking what he feels about the relentless media attention given to his Dad's illness. "The media is just doing their job. I am OK with it. There's nothing I want from the media really."
Does he agree with what most of his directors say, that he has become more relaxed and confident before the camera? "No I disagree totally. I'm as insecure now as when I started out. Its insecurity that keeps an actor moving. The day you get secure about your acting ability, you're finished as a performer." In other words the phenomenon of opening weekend jitters will not really go away yet? "No. Right now I feel that same anxiety and tension that I do on the eve of any release. Wondering, will the audiences like it?"
What's the biggest bluff he's told himself? "That I am an actor. It's the biggest lie ever. I don't think I can act, though I've managed to convince many people I can."
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