It is said the world always pays obeisance to the rising sun. One man has however, changed that equation in Bollywood, if there ever was a live example for the word.
Can you think of any other actor who makes stars about three to four decades younger than him, fade away in comparison? Or any other septuagenarian, who hungrily snaps up 4-5 releases in a year when other younger actors are content with one or two. His blogs, twitter handle and social networks have more innumerable followers.
The superstar of the millennium, as reported by the BBC, has the energy to support causes and endorse myriad products, host game shows and appear for several film promotions, simultaneously.
I’m curious about how he challenges every norm and what keeps him going. His answer is as disarming as it is humble. “It is people like you, honestly. When I see fans, the way they come to me, crowd around my house every Sunday, I feel as though I owe you something. I have to do it for so many well-wishers. Any challenge to my limited ability as an actor does get me anxious. This is a better way to address one’s insecurities and enhance our creativity rather than allowing them to weigh you down,” says Mr Bachchan.
It is perhaps this attitude – borrowing a verse from his father’s poem – “Mann ka ho to achcha, na ho to aur bhi achcha” – that makes him a real Big B. Unmindful of all criticism – of trying too hard, choosing gimmicky roles or acting bizarre, selling his name for products – he refuses to slow down. “I thank God for every blessing. I have seen the lows and am insecure about losing it all one day,” confesses the star.
Experimenting is Key
“When you attain a certain age, you’re obviously not going to get the main lead. So there are character roles. It is up to you to decide whether you want to go into a character role category or not. I want to continue working, and I’m happy doing character roles,” adds the actor who carved another niche hitherto unknown of in Hindi cinema – that of a mature leading man. And much like whatever he did, these character roles were unconventional too. Some have even been outrageous, to the extent of being bizarre. But Bachchan pulled them off without any reference.
“Sometimes you do tend to repeat what has succeeded or what has been appreciated. I was getting these opportunities and I wanted to keep working. But you know, at 72, you can’t look at some kind of image that you have to maintain. I am doing what I enjoy and that makes me very happy and definitely blessed,” quips the superstar, while adding, “I’m at a stage where the responsibility of being the leading man, or a film’s success is really not on my shoulders. So I would like to do whatever comes my way – in that sense, yes, I am getting younger and taking these risks (laughs). Okay, people didn’t like some of my films such as Nishabd or Aladin or Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag and trashed it – but I am absolutely fine with that. I didn’t mind doing those roles because they tested my creativity and I enjoyed doing them.”
Where there were praises, there was criticism too. Criticism has been part of his life, and overlooking it has become habit. After all, wasn’t he initially criticised for being too tall, criticised for his baritone (even rejected by Ameen Sayani in a radio audition!). In fact, his wife was extremely critical of the chartbusting Mere Angne Mein from Laawaris. “Well Jaya was repulsed by that song. She saw the rushes and unmindful of who was present there, she burst out saying – how can you do this? How can you be so crass? She has not even seen the film till date.” According to Amitabh, Shweta and Abhishek, his children, are his severest critics, who analyse everything right from his appearance, to his dancing whenever any film releases. The strongest criticism from the family came before he agreed to be on TV for the first time. “I was at a stage where I wasn’t doing much. My work was not being appreciated. My films were not doing well. I just looked at it as another opportunity,” says the actor. Amitabh Bachchan was taken to England to see a recording of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire with Chris Tarrant who was doing it at the BBC’s legendary Elstree Studios, and once he had said yes, he was all set to create TV history.
“There is always this apprehension and anxiety that I may lose everything – simply because nothing is permanent. I think the eventuality of that should never be forgotten. There is always going to be a risk; if you are aware of that risk and the fact that it
could happen at the drop of a hat, perhaps that is what drives you to not fall into that situation again,” confesses the actor.
This philosophy reflects in his blogs as well – another habit that the superstar diligently adheres to – of writing a blog entry every single day. And his take on life reflects in this post, written on the eve of his birthday – “Struggles and uncertainties, successes and disappointments, accusations and controversies, ill health and months in hospital, all such a vivid kaleidoscope of moments, events, images simply unbelievable and unimaginable…”
Written by Aarti K Singh