Inayat is the highlight of Ludo, says Abhishek Bachchan
The Bollywood actor talks destiny, the outsider/insider debate and sharing screen space with a child actor in the Anurag Basu directed Netflix movie
Being born into the illustrious Bachchan clan would have been enough for some to tag themselves as ‘destiny’s child.’ But Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan is still not sure whether he believes in the concept of destiny or not. In Netflix’s dark comedy Ludo directed by Anurag Basu (Barfi!, Life in a Metro) that drops on November 12, Abhishek plays a former gangster-turned-family man, Bittu bhai, whose past catches up with him when he rescues a child on the street. Is life as random as a roll of dice in a game of ludo? Or is it all a predetermined act where a super power decides where we roll or how we roll in this unpredictable mess? While Basu and his troupe of creatives play power brokers with the script and the action, Abhishek Bachchan who plays the lead in one of the stories that forms part of Ludo is unsure if he or his career are products of destiny or if there is more to it.
“Very honestly I’d like to believe it,” he ponders over our query on a Zoom conversation as to whether he believes in destiny as portrayed in his latest movie.
“I don’t know if I do entirely,” he is deep in thought when he says this. “Part of me says you have to make your own destiny, part of me says trust the process and believe in God, and get on with it,” he goes on. “So I’m a bit confused as far as that’s concerned, personally.”
Looking for support within
A bit of that confusion plays up on the screen where he enacts the role of an ‘angry young man’ embittered with life and destiny as he is separated from the daughter he loves greatly along with his wife post a 6-year imprisonment for a crime he didn’t commit. When a 6-year old girl Mini (Inayat Verma) enters his life, he mellows down and realises that sometimes you have to let go in order to move forward.
His role in Ludo seems reflective of his real life trajectory as well in many ways as Abhishek says for actors like him the support system that insiders are said to enjoy and that has been a hot debate in the industry of late, is only a matter of perception.
“At the end of the day when you are standing in front of the camera, when you are performing, the only support system you have is within. You have to do the job. So at that point of time, any debate there may be off the set is immaterial because in front of the camera you have to do what you have to do.
“At that point of time it doesn’t matter what your first name is, what your last name is, who your friends are, who your friends aren’t; who has helped you and who has not.
“At the end of the day, when the camera switches on, you need to perform and only you can… nobody can help you at that point of time..”
At the same time the actor is quick to acknowledge his family - “they ground me, they support me, and they encourage me and that’s the only support your require.” Then he goes on to dismiss all talk of the outsider/insider debate by saying: “At the end of the day your talent has to speak and nothing else should matter.”
‘Inayat is the highlight of Ludo’
It’s probably this down-to-earth demeanor that attracted 8-year old debutant Inayat Varma to her older co-star.
“Once you meet Inayat you will know it is business as usual,” Abhishek says when quizzed how challenging it was to share screen space with a child actor.
“Whatever preconceived notion you might turn up at the set with thinking she’s a kid and you have to handle her in a particular way, that kind of dissipates pretty quickly because she is what she is… she is this bundle of energy and talent and she made my life so easy,” the senior actor sardonically tells us.
“She’s the highlight of the film as far as I’m concerned,” he goes on to add, “and it was a sheer pleasure and honour to have her.”
The feeling seems to be pretty mutual going by Inayat’s response to these comments. The child actor who made her debut with India’s Best DrameBaaz and boasts her own Insta account (handled by her mum of course) is as chirpy and put-together as they come. In Ludo she plays this precarious 6-year old who instigates the former gangster with a heart-of-gold Bittu into ‘kidnapping’ her and calling up her distraught too-busy-for-their-own-kid parents for ransom. She’s definitely the one with the upper hand in this relationship.
As far as a child actor is concerned, Abhishek states, “there’s definitely a sense of innocence, there’s a sense of uncoloured performance style that comes in. We as adults who have been acting for a while get coloured by different things. She brings in something that’s so novel, so fresh, and I think that’s what she’s brought to the table and she’s done a fantastic job.”
‘I want to be like Abhishek Bhaiyya’
While Inayat can’t seem to say enough about Abhishek’s caring side, which she goes on to explain made their set interaction pretty special, it’s her next statement, which truly encapsulates their special bond. “When I grow up I also want to be like Abhishek Bhaiyya and be down-to-earth - even if I become a big actress I hope to be like him.” She reveals she’s very much inspired by the actor whose loving and caring side seems to have swept her off her feet.
Finding co-stars who go gaga over each other ahead of the release of their movie together is not uncommon in Bollywood. What makes this interaction between the duo heartening is that it all seems to be coming from the heart. He doesn’t mollycoddle her and treats her on equal footing and she in turn is utterly disarmed by all the good things he has to say about her.
Inayat who made her debut with a reality show, admits she is a drama queen in real life too. But she is quick to caution other kids who might be inspired by her own role in Ludo, where she is shown emotionally blackmailing her parents by staging her own kidnapping by saying that in real life you are more likely to get a beating for running away from home!
Abhishek Bachchan of late seems to be making a career out of kidnapping children, if you go by his recent two projects. In Breathe 2, he plays a well-to-do psychiatrist whose life takes a dramatic turn when his 6-year-old daughter is kidnapped by a hoodie-clad villain bent on finding out how far a father will go to save his child.
While Abhishek is known to be quite camera shy in that you don’t see him appear every now and then on the big screen, the lure of working with Anurag Basu was too good to let up. “He is a director I have a lot of respect for, whose work I have immense respect for and someone I’ve been wanting to work with for a very, very long time.”
Abhishek even confesses that he didn’t know what the script was, or who the rest of the star cast was and that he “just signed on purely because of him.” Abhishek is also full of praise for his Ludo costar Pankaj Tripathi despite their limited time together on screen. “Pankaj is someone I’ve seen from the start of his career - he had a very small role in Run (2004) and then we were extensively together in Mani Ratnam’s movie Raavan where he played an eunuch who’s part of my gang. That’s where I actually got to know him for the first time. Its good to see his progression - his talent speaks for itself.
“Its wonderful to see his success and see him get the due that he deserves.
“He’s done a fantastic job in this as well and I like the fact we get to see a different facet of him this time.”
“Sadly what happens to a lot of great actors in the film industry is that we get slotted into particular images and I like the fact that maintaining certain attributes that he’s been slotted with he’s managed to give it a new facet as well. And to see him in this light is wonderful.”
Abhishek is also one actor who has refused to be compartmentalised in the roles he has done so far. Whether it is a serious drama like Guru or Raavan or a comic fest like Dostana or Bunty Aur Babli, he’s been able to play all sorts of characters and genres with élan. So what’s his comfort zone? “All of it,” he says after a bit of a pause. Then as if trying to make amends for his tone, “Without trying to sound high handed… And I say it with all humility, I’m comfortable doing stuff that excites me. I’m comfortable entertaining people and I’m comfortable when my director is comfortable.”