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'Jaya is the most difficult person to please...'

January 05, 2016 14:38 IST

'I'm getting to play different characters now, from the ones in my earlier years, when I was a leading actor. Then, you fought with the villain and got the girl at the end of every film. 

'Today, we have different shades of characters -- a man on wheelchair, a 13-year-old child, a mad character like mine in Shamitabh. The roles are wonderful.'

Amitabh Bachchan gets ready for Wazir.

Amitabh Bachchan will play a challenging role in January's first movie release, Wazir.

Starring Farhan Akhtar, John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Aditi Rao Hydari, Wazir is about a wheelchair-bound chess grandmaster and a grief-stricken ATS officer, who are brought together by a twist of fate. 

Amitabh tells us what attracted him to the film. Rediff.com contributor Rajul Hegde listens in.

Farhan Akhtar and Amitabh Bachchan

Image: Farhan Akhtar and Amitabh Bachchan in Wazir

Vidhu Vinod Chopra wanted to make Wazir in English.

Yes. He had narrated the idea to me almost 15 years ago. It was called Chess Player then. But the project did not happen then due to some reason. It's come back and so we are doing it.

What is Wazir all about?

There are two main characters in the film -- one is ATS officer Danish (Farhan Akhtar) and Kashmiri Pandit Omkarnathan (Bachchan), living in New Delhi.

They realise that they have common issues and problems, and the story is how they overcome them.

You play chess in the film. How much of a chess player are you in real life?

I used to play chess but not anymore. I have forgotten a lot. But during the course of the film, we had to learn a few moves.

Did you do any kind of preparation for the role? 

I was just asked to sit on this wheelchair and move around.

Most actors look for props to assist them in their performances -- and the wheelchair was a wonderful prop. It was wonderful that I could use this prop as a part of my act.

I cannot talk about the film much but it is made intelligently. I admire the screenplay. and the writing. It is very sleek and modern. These are Jaya's (Bachchan’s) words. She's the most difficult person to please, and she has liked the film immensely.

Farhan Akhtar and Amitabh Bachchan

Image: Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar in the song Atrangi Yaari. Photograph: Amitabh Bachchan/Twitter

Farhan Akhtar directed you in Lakshya, and now he's acting opposite you.

During the making of Wazir, there were points, which he may have viewed as a director, and brought it up. It was very interesting.

There are few individuals who are like this. It is not easy to be a director, actor, musician, singer and writer all at the same time.

Among your latest films -- Piku, Shamitabh and Wazir -- which role was the most demanding?

Every role is demanding. We put in equal efforts to portray our characters.

I'm getting to play different characters now, from the ones in my earlier years, when I was a leading actor. Then, you fought with the villain and got the girl at the end of every film.

Today, we have different shades of characters -- a man on wheelchair, a 13-year-old child, a mad character like mine in Shamitabh. The roles are wonderful.

How was your TE3N shooting experience in Kolkata?

After graduation, my first job was in Kolkata. I spent eight years there.

I have shot many films there, so it's very nostalgic. It's always joy to be there. The people are wonderful. There is passion in whatever they like, from football to films. 

Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Amitabh Bachchan

Image: Amitabh Bachchan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in TE3N. Photograph: Amitabh Bachchan/Twitter

How was it working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in TE3N, who has confessed to being your biggest fan? 

It’s the other way round.

I am an admirer of his work.

He had a small passing shot in Shoojit Sircar’s Shoebite, which is ready but hasn't released yet. I was so astonished with his talent that I asked Shoojit where he got him from. I told Shootjit to give him something bigger to do.

And look how wonderful he is today.

Working with him in TE3N is a great honour for me.

For younger actors like Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, getting a hand-written letter from you is a like barometer of success. What is the barometer of success for you?

I don't know whether it is a barometer or not. I like their work and I appreciate it. They are exceptional artists; this new generation is really good. I cannot resist myself from telling them how good they are.

This whole thing of writing a letter or sending messages happen a lot these days. It wasn't there earlier. There were times when we used to exchange flowers but I prefer writing letters. I have always been a great admirer of Dilip Kumarsaab. I have received a letter from him that I have treasured.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Amitabh Bachchan and Ranveer Singh

Image: Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Amitabh Bachchan and Ranveer Singh on the sets of Bajirao Mastani. Photograph: Amitabh Bachchan/Twitter

How has been your equation been with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who directed you in Black?

I call him a genius. It is astonishing how he builds these films. He has an unbelievable eye. Every frame of him is a painting. I enjoy his films from Khamoshi to Bajirao Mastani.

Do you feel stifled as an artist when (Censor Board chief) Pahlaj Nilhani makes censorship rules?

I cannot comment on that.

I don't know whether it is right or wrong -- they work according to certain stipulations set by the government of India. If the government of India feels this needs to be allowed or this needs to be edited, the board follows it.

If you disagree, there are various mediums where you can fight your case. 

There was buzz that Rajinikanth's Enthiran 2.0 was offered to you?

No. (Director) Shankar, who did the first film, told me that he wanted me to play the villain. I called Rajni (Rajnikanth). He said people would not accept me as a villain, so don't do it. I said okay.

Rajul Hegde / Rediff.com in Mumbai