'We just have each other'

SHE’S ALWAYS been a woman who lived life on her own terms —be that as an actress, a wife or a mother. If people had suggestions for how she could have changed the course of her life, Jaya Bachchan wasn’t listening,

"To me, family comes first and I’ll fight like a tigress against anyone who attacks my family."

You are full of praise for Pradeep Sarkar after Laaga Chunari MeinDaag.

Yes, it was like going back 30 years and working with Hrishikesh Mukherjee or Gulzar. That’s the kind of pleasure I got shooting with Pradeep. He has a great aesthetic eye and is so Indian. Today’s directors have become so westernized. They have forgotten our rich culture and tradition. Pradeep is a total perfectionist.

There is talk of you not liking Rani?

That is just loose talk. Laaga… is my first film with her and I find her to be one of the finest artistes we have today. She has matured with every role giving better performances each time. When you have a good co-star opposite you, you will be surprised how your performance only gets better. Interaction is so important. It was an interesting experience to work with Rani.

How similar is Abhishek to you? What was working with him like?

Abhishek is an extrovert much like me. He is more affable. But he is also short tempered like me. He has a short fuse but eventually calms down. He is understanding and lets go like me. It was very comfortable working with him in Laaga.

When you look back, who has been the most influential person in your life?

I’d say Amit has been more of an influence in shaping the course of my life, since I have been married for over 30 years, which is more time than I spent at home with my parents! I love him very dearly and cannot think of life any other way.

Looking back on your years of togetherness.

We have spent so many special years together —earlier as a couple, then as parents, and now as grandparents. We are just so much a part of each other. Now our kids have grown up and are doing their own thing, so we just have each other for company.

How would you describe your husband?

His one outstanding quality is his patience. I would define him as a very conscientious and good human being. He rarely gets angry, but insincerity, irresponsibility, annoys him. He dislikes anything ugly from a bed sheet, to the way someone is dressed. He is special on the whole; I cannot break it up with words. I like him as he is.

What is it like to be married to such a super, super star?

Well to me, he is a husband, and has never been anything but normal —as a man and father. I don’t know how superstars are supposed to behave, but he is a lot more normal than many people. And it is important that he has kept it that way, being head of the family. He has a very basic, down-to-earth style of living. That is how he has taught the family to live.

Did you ever hurt for Abhishek like you did for Amitabh?

The only time I was a bit worried as a mother, was when his relationship went wrong (Abhishek’s engagement with Karisma Kapoor was called off). I didn’t know how he would handle it. He was seeing somebody for so many years. He had been through many ‘yes’ and ‘no’s’. I was hurting for him because I knew how much he was hurting. When you are not in the best form professionally and then to lose somebody who he must have depended on emotionally does make a difference. But he never complained. Later, he told us that it was a series of events that made him take that decision. Abhishek is not someone who will fool around with a woman. That makes me very happy and proud. He will not let anyone down.

What qualities did you envision in his wife before he married and has she lived up to them?

I knew that Abhishek would want someone very cultured, with a good mix of the east and west who could be a companion and be compassionate. He would need somebody very understanding, not because he is my son but because he is an actor. Actors need understanding wives. I know he will make a good husband. Respecting a woman comes easily to him. Yes, Aishwarya has fulfilled all this and more. She is my Pari.

What upsets you about your son?

I get upset when we fight but we inevitably make up because we know who is in the wrong. My only complaint is, ‘Learn to talk properly to your mother’!

Which quality of his father would you like him to possess?

I think Amit is one in a million where discipline, sincerity and dedication are concerned. His commitment to anything is 100 per cent. I don’t think Abhishek possesses his father’s discipline. But I think he is a little stubborn and adamant like him. You can push Abhishek but once he has made up his mind, there’s very little you can do about it.

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