Amitabh Bachchan: I will not enter politics ever again
Amitabh Bachchan may be a big part of films that herald social change like Satyagraha, he may pledge his support to serve the country as much as he can but he refuses to be drawn into politics again.
In a free-wheeling conversation with Subhash K Jha, Amitabh discusses his views on corruption, cinema, Kaun Banega Crorepati 7 and even the new Zanjeer.
Your latest film Satyagraha addressed the need to clean our society of corruption. How far do you think cinema can be a tool of social reform?
Cinema is a powerful medium, it makes powerful impressions. Indian cinema has always conformed to the practice of poetic justice within three hours. Wrong is punished, evil is destroyed, culprits are brought to book. Many other social and moral factors that form a part of our living and culture get addressed.
Creativity constructs what it finds itself surrounded by. An artist seeks inspiration or gets inspired by what he or she experiences and puts it in artistic form. Cinema does the same.
If there are elements in a product that are capable of bringing social change, that would be an added achievement.
A film is the vision of its maker, his or her thought process. If during that process it also creates awareness, then that is welcome and laudable.
As an artist, after I make a commitment, I follow diligently the dictates of the director. But this is my personal conduct. Many colleagues of mine have very strong beliefs about the content they associate themselves with, and pursue their activism through the films or art forms they produce or are a part of.
They are brave and I applaud them. I am not so brave and do not possess such strong activist sensibilities. I am human, though, and do undergo strong feelings and impressions. But I do not express them publicly.
Image: Amitabh Bachchan
Photographs: Avinash Gowariker
'I shall not shy away from serving the country'
Your role in the film is said to be inspired by Anna Hazare. What according to you was the ideological base for your character?
During the several interviews conducted for the promotional activities of the film, similar questions were asked of Prakash Jha (director) and his response was in the negative.
There may be some moments that look similar, perhaps the portion of the fast unto death. But, then, how else would a public fast unto death look like visually?
I think the inspiration for the satyagraha was Mahatma Gandhi rather than Anna Hazare. The form ‘satyagraha’ was Gandhiji’s gift to a nation fighting for Independence. It has been inspirational and has been duplicated often.
The story of Satyagraha is far from the questions being raised by Anna Hazare. It’s a father-son story. A father who has lost his son, and a son in search of a father.
It is about the different perspectives they have. It is about the meeting of their philosophies in creating a revolution which they believe to be just and warranted.
The character of Dwarka that I portray is that of an idealist, one who is morally correct and believes that when right is denied despite its truth, it needs to be manifested in a silent non-violent revolt.
Your character aspires to be Gandhian. But is silent protest a remedy for the rampant corruption in modern India?
Peaceful, silent and non-violent protest in accordance with democratic principles is what the film propagates.
The theme of the film is that violence is not the right path to achieve that which is governed by truth.
You've very clearly stated that politics is not your cup of tea. Would you be willing to change your mind if you are convinced the country needs you?
No, I will not change my mind regarding politics. I will not go there again. But I shall not shy away from serving the country in any other way it wishes me to.
Image: Amitabh Bachchan in Satyagraha
'Ajay has worked in diverse films and has excelled in all of them'
As an icon and a role model, how important is it to you to maintain a decorous, upright and infallible image in public?
I am neither an icon nor a role model. I am simply a very proud citizen of my country, and being so, shall always endeavour to remain decorous and upright.
Image is a branded construct, it belongs not to me. Infallible I cannot say, for we are all human and will succumb to faults. But, if faulted, I shall follow what the constitution and the law of the land directs me to.
I shall not, hopefully, deliberately seek fault, but if it occurs inadvertently, I shall and will be ready to face rightful procedural consequences. I shall not shy away from it.
Ajay Devgn and you have worked earlier in your home production Major Saab. How far in your opinion has he evolved as an actor?
Yes, Ajay and I have worked in Major Saab and other films too. The experience has been delightful. As actors, we all hope and wish to improve and evolve with each new venture. Ajay is no different. He has been working in films that have offered him great diversity, and he has excelled in all of them.
Image: Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn in Satyagraha
'Young and fresh talent, exceptional in their ability, emerges each Friday'
This seems like a time for tremendous activity in Bollywood cinema. What do you feel about some of the films being made? Which films have impressed you the most in recent times?
Yes, I would agree with you that Indian cinema is going through a catharsis, a time of tremendous activity, wanting to indulge in all kinds of fresh and new experimentation, and succeeding.
Young and fresh talent, exceptional in their ability, emerges each Friday, to take our breath away.
Recent films such as Paan Singh Tomar Vicky Donor, Kahani, Gangs of Wasseypur, Lootera, Ranjhana, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, D-Day, Madras Café and so on...have been so impressive and a delight to watch.
I believe there are many more in the making. Along with this is the emergence of the popular cinema, creating revenue figures that were unheard of earlier.
What a wonderful period we are all witnessing. A maturing audience is the main reason for what we are observing each day.
You start work on Sudhir Mishra's film next. It brings together Rishi Kapoor and you after many years. How do you recall your association with Rishi Kapoor?
Rishi Kapoor, or Chintu to me, has always been an excellent artist. There is great belief in what he does, says, enacts in front of the camera.
Just that one quality makes him exceptional. Our films together have been immensely successful, and I do look forward to working with him again.
Image: Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
'Ram Charan is an accomplished star'
Your career-making film Zanjeer has been re-made with Telugu star Ram Charan in the lead. Do you feel Zanjeer or any of your classics should be re-made?
I cannot hold an opinion on it. At times your involvement in a particular film propels you to think that it should remain untouched. And at times when you see the finished re-make you appreciate its ingenuity.
The desire to re-make does not rest with me. It is the decision of those that may or may not hold its re-make rights. There are so many past examples that impress you - Devdas, Mother India, Aurat, The Seven Samurai in Japanese to Magnificent Seven in Hollywood and so on.
Ram Charan is an accomplished star and I am certain, from the few rushes that have been shown to me, that he will do a tremendous job.
Image: Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeet
'There have been some cosmetic changes in KBC'
What are your other film projects? When do you start work on Balki's film?
There are a few: Bhootnath 2, Balki’s film which is being scheduled, Sudhir Mishra’s film now titled Pehle Aaap Janab, Sujoy Ghosh, Rumi Jaffrey, Anuraag Kashyap and a few others that are still in the process of being finalised.
In the meanwhile, another TV season of Kaun Banega Crorepati has started. What is the USP this time?
Yes, KBC has begun. The format is the same, of course -- questions will be asked and correct answers shall be rewarded -- but there have been some cosmetic changes.
The set is a stunningly new product. The winning amount has gone up to Rs 7 crore. The lifelines have increased to five, of which four can be used in a novel, interesting manner. The time given for responses at various levels has gone up.
Most important of all, the Fastest Finger First now has three right questions to answer, instead of one, in the least amount of time cumulatively, to be invited to the Hot Seat.
Image: Amitabh Bachchan in Kaun Banega Crorepati