Bollywood: Abhishek Bachchan talks family, OTT and 'Bob Biswas'

Actor's latest crime drama is out now on Zee5 Global


Ambica Sachin

Published: Mon 6 Dec 2021, 5:58 PM

What’s in a name, one may jest, under the literary sway of the great Bard. But the question takes on greater significance when you happen to be part of the illustrious Bachchan clan in Bollywood. For Abhishek Bachchan, in particular, it is the biggest blessing of his life, no doubt, but one which an outsider may view as a double-edged sword — to constantly live up to the expectations that come with the lineage and at the same time rise above it all to serve his own personal goals.

In a previous conversation with us, the actor has mentioned how “it doesn’t matter what your first name is, what your last name is… 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.”

As his latest thriller Bob Biswas, that marks the directorial debut of Diya Annapurna Ghosh is out on Zee5 Global, we catch up with the actor on Zoom for a candid chat on movies, family and more.

Bob Biswas is somewhat of an odd character for Indian audiences, seeing as how he looks unlike any hired assassin one has in mind...

It’s nice to go against the grain. As an actor you are continuously striving to achieve something that hasn’t been done before. Most importantly you are trying to do something you haven’t done before, and when you read Bob and hear about his past life, to visualise him like that was so interesting. It is very contradictory to the image we have of a contract killer. Here’s this portly guy, almost cherubic looking; he has a bit of a waddle when he walks, he is always pleasant and smiling, but he does some nasty stuff. That makes him a character you want to sink your teeth into, and have a lot of fun playing. So it was an absolute no-brainer for me.

In Breathe: Into the Shadows also you played a man who is not what he seems to be. Is the duality of the character of Bob Biswas part of the appeal for you?

I guess you could say partially. There is a general trend today to humanise the characters, and when I say that I don’t mean we are justifying them. When you humanise you are basically putting it out there that everyone is flawed; that day and age is gone where we can be morally superior, in action and in deed and in thought. People are flawed and that is the reality. With those flaws if you can rise to the occasion and overcome the bad, then you are a true hero, and I think that is what appeals to audiences today.

It is not about duality of character, but playing somebody who has flaws, that makes them more tactile.

Indian cinema is escapist. We grew up on an appetite of escapist fare; it is aspirational to a huge extent, more so from the 90s onwards, when this huge NRI romances started. Today’s audience has had that fill; society has also matured and evolved. They want, to see; ‘Can I, the common man, sitting at home achieve the unthinkable? I might not have the best body. I might not be the best looking, I might not have the best hair, and I could be an okay person. At times I have my good days, or I have my bad days, but does that mean, I still cannot go out there and do something?’

That’s why I say, everybody is flawed and today we like to see those kind of characters, who are so relatable and tactile. Its not about the duality, it is about playing somebody that you are not used to seeing. Bob could be that guy next to you on the train, and I wouldn’t be able to guess what he does; that makes it more fun.”

Has OTT given you, as an artist, a wider platform to experiment with roles and characters today?

Honestly, a year and a half ago I would have agreed with you. Those lines have further blurred. I do believe the convenience, and now safety of an OTT platform, is unparalleled. You want to go to the cinema and sit in that wonderfully air-conditioned dark room with your popcorn and your cold drink and your samosa, and watch the 70mm screen and enjoy the experience of watching a movie. On OTT its not about the experience, the emphasis is purely on content. That’s why you see such wonderful actors flourishing in this medium. I don’t mean any disrespect; I’m not trying to take anything away from them, but to convince the layman to leave the safety and comfort of his house, commune to a theatre, purchase his ticket, sit in the theatre and watch a movie — it takes more than just a good actor, you have to be a star. My dear friends Rohit Shetty, Akki Bhai, AJ, Ranbir, Katrina have made a film called Sooryavanshi… I want to go to the theatre, I want to whistle, I want to throw money, I wanna dance, I want the whole shebang. There are other movies, which I want to sit in the privacy of my room, and just immerse myself in, without any other distractions.

Do I miss being on screen? Of course, we all love the theatre. I can’t wait to get back into theatres and watch a movie, but you also have to understand and accept and appreciate the kind of penetration, that OTT platforms have is immense. It’s going to come down to what kind of films fits in where. I truly believe that Bob (Biswas) is very lucky. He was supposed to come in theatres, but the pandemic changed that and we adapted, we’ve come on to Zee5 and he fits perfectly well into the OTT space as well.

Does having Shah Rukh Khan’s production house Red Chillies Entertainment back the movie give it a thrust?

Shah Rukh hasn’t been on set even one day. What’s wonderful about Shah Rukh is that he believes in story telling and storytellers and he backs them to the hilt. He doesn’t second-guess them. I don’t think Shah Rukh had an opinion when Sujoy (Ghosh) told him he was thinking of me. He is like family. He has been an amazing producer because he is so supportive. And that liberates you. That puts a lot of pressure too because like I said Shah is like family to me. So there is a lot of responsibility that we have to make something of good quality for him because he has had this kind of faith in us. And we cannot betray that faith.

Indian Bollywood actors Jaya Bachchan (L), Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (C) and Amitabh Bachchan (R) pose for a picture during the wedding reception party of actors Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in Mumbai late on December 1, 2018.  / AFP / -
Indian Bollywood actors Jaya Bachchan (L), Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (C) and Amitabh Bachchan (R) pose for a picture during the wedding reception party of actors Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in Mumbai late on December 1, 2018. / AFP / -

'I'm very proud to be my father and mother's son'

When Abhishek Bachchan made his debut in war drama Refugee in 2000, Bollywood fans were agog to check out the Bachchan scion. He went down the tried and tested romantic drama route with movies like Tera Jadoo Chal Gayaa and Bas Itna Sa Kwaab Hai. But it was his serious turn in movies like Sarkar, Yuva and Guru that really showcased this actor’s solid style. At the same time he excelled in comic fare in movies like Bluffmaster, Dostana and Bunty Aur Babli.

There might have been a few forgettable movies in between like that in any actor’s career, but overall he is known for dependable performances like in his recent OTT releases, Breathe, Ludo or The Big Bull. But does it ever become hard to make peace with the fact that every project he does will be viewed through the prism of his surname?

“First of all I don’t think I can agree with the phrase ‘how do I make peace with it’. I can only make peace with something that I am at loggerheads with or at war with. I am not. I am who I am. I embrace it. I love it. And I am immensely proud of it. I’m very proud to be my father and my mother’s son. So it is not even an issue.

“If they are going to look at me through the prism of Mr Amitabh Bachchan, you are taking my name in terms of my work, in the same breath and in the same sentence as who I consider to be the greatest of all time. And if you think me worthy enough to be compared to the greatest of all time, that means that I am doing something right.”

Bob Biswas is streaming on Zee5 Global

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