'Yes, I would love to compete with Abhishek'

HUMILITY is the hallmark of greatness, Amitabh Bachchan is its brand ambassador. But even this entertainment legend is not immune to pulls of competition and rivalry. With the Shah Rukh Khan-Big B rivalry virtually the subject of prime ...

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Published: Thu 1 Feb 2007, 2:59 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:58 PM

IF time debate, Bachchan made light of the suggestion that he faced any challenge.

Touching upon everything from his role in Nishabd and Sholay to his belief that India was on the threshold of excellence, the Big B epitomised what the French government recognised as well — a Legion d'Honneur.

How does it feel to get the Legion d'honneur, after Satyajit Ray and Ravi Shankar?

I don't think I am worthy of being in the distinguished company of Satyajit Ray and Ravi Shankar. I am greatly honoured that the French government thinks I deserve it. But, I am happy because this is an honour for the Indian film industry.

How do you evaluate the Big B brand? Recent estimates say that with Aishwarya Rai in the family, the B brand is worth no less than Rs700 crore.

As an economic assessment, I think the value is too less. Human beings cannot be valued in money terms, whether its Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek, Aishwarya or anyone.

My value is with my family I look at Amitabh, Jaya, Abhishek, Aishwarya and Amar Singh as family I don't believe in the "brand."

Of course, if commerce is involved we are all actors in the business of acting and we will look at this commercially, Aishwarya, Abhishek and I.

You faced competition from a 40-year-old Shah Rukh Khan. With the success of Guru, the competition is said to be coming closer home, from 30-year-old Abhishek.

I would love to compete with Abhishek. And when we are in front of a camera both Abhishek and I are actors so, in a sense we are competitors. I would like to see Shah Rukh as an inspiration. I want to do better, make better films, so he can copy me.

Have you seen Shah Rukh's KBC? Can you tell the story behind your exit?

I chose to be out of it. I suddenly took ill, and when I came back it took me time to build confidence. So I told Sameer Nair it would not be possible for me to do the show. I did about 350 shows at a trot which is unprecedented in the history of Millionaire.

When you do two episodes a day there is bound to be a sense of monotony.

There is a fundamental reality. The format of the game cannot be changed. You can change the frills the background colours, the jokes, the sermons. But the format remains the same. That was becoming monotonous. I felt I was becoming mechanical. As an artiste, I needed to have the butterflies in my stomach that had stopped.

Is there a rivalry between you and Shah Rukh?

No, what rivalry? He is 25 years younger than me. Why do they talk of such competition?

Is it true that you asked Karan Johar to insert "Rock and Roll, Soniye" because the script was...

(Cuts short)... No no. You don't ask Karan Johar for anything you just sit quiet and obey.

You play Gabbar in the remake of your greatest movie, Sholay. What memories does it bring back?

I enjoyed it immensely. When I was first shown the script in 1973, I liked that role and I wanted to do it. Even on our way to the location on the first day, I kept pestering Ramesh Sippy, "Please give me that role." He didn't, so in a way, this was assuaging a deep sense of frustration.

When Ram Gopal Verma asked me to do the role, I jumped at the opportunity.

Do you get to say Gabbar's famous words, 'Ab tera kya hoga Kalia'?

I'm not telling you but I can tell you that what we do in this film may become the byword for future Sholays. I am looking forward equally to all my films - Eklavya, Nishabd and Chini Kam, which I can best describe as a sugarless romance. Nishabd it is an 18-year-old's attraction for a much older man.

To move to Abhishek, many said the script was loaded in favour of Hrithik in Dhoom II. Do you regret Abhishek doing the role?

I am happy and proud he did it. It showed his commitment to the script, the film. Even knowing that his role was miniscule, he did the role to keep the brand Dhoom alive for future episodes. What I did not like was director Sanjay Gadhvi's criticism after the film that Abhishek was finished, a spent force.

Criticising Abhishek despite knowing that Hrithik had a bigger role was what I did not approve of. What I appreciate is Abhishek stuck around and proved wrong all those cynical about him. That is what he did in Guru.

How do you rate Guru?

It's a great film. There's a technical side and an emotional side. My son-in-law has booked seats for all his staff at Escorts and he reported that afterwards their approach to problems became different. "We can do it, boss," became the refrain. That's good.

When did you know that Abhishek-Ash wedding was in the air?

After the New York premiere of Guru, Abhishek called me just before getting on the plane to say he had proposed and Aishwarya had accepted. The premiere in both Toronto and New York was unbelievable. In both cities, the halls chosen only show Hollywood films. But the crowds, the response...was very different.

You have repeatedly ruled out your return to politics. But you are seen to be close to one particular political party. Do you intend to formalise this?

First, I will not make it formal. I stick to what I said when I left politics, that I will not come back. I have never campaigned for a political party and never said anything political. Yes, I have done a campaign for UP. It's my home state and I am its brand ambassador appointed by the UP Development Council. Today, Samajwadi Party is in power, but tomorrow if another party came in and asked me to do this, I will.

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