'Deewar is Amitabh Bachchan's finest performance till date'
As part of our celebrations of the iconic Amitabh Bachchan, who turns 70 on October 11, we speak to filmmakers who made some landmark movies with the iconic actor in his long career.
We start with Yash Chopra, who directed Amitabh in classics like Deewar, Kabhi Kabhie, Trishul, Kaala Patthar and Silsila.
I have always enjoyed working with Amitabh Bachchan. Apart from Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh is the only other actor, who is always punctual on the sets.
I still remember reading the bound script of Deewar when it came to me. Till today, I think that is the finest script ever written. There is no flaw in it. And it is Amitabh's finest performance till date.
After Deewar, I started shooting Kabhi Kabhie. Shooting for that film was like a picnic. I shot the film in all the three seasons of Kashmir. Jaya Bachchan was my assistant in the film. Amitabh's parents acted in the film -- they did kanyadaan of Rakhee's character. There was a party scene in the film, and Amitabh's brother Ajitabh and his wife Ramola were a part of it.
The original cast of Silsila (1981) was Amitabh Bachchan, Smita Patil and Parveen Babi.
Smita was going to play Jaya's role. I was not very convinced with the casting. I always wanted Jaya and Rekha. Amitabh was shooting for his film Kaalia in Kashmir then. I went to meet him with the bound script. I also told him I wanted to cast Jaya and Rekha.
He paused for a moment and said, 'Bombay jaake unko mil lete hai' (Lets go to Bombay and meet them).
The next day, we took a flight back and during the whole journey, we didn't say a word. I met Jaya and Rekha, and they agreed to do the film.Before the shoot started, I called Jaya and Rekha separately for obvious reasons and said, 'Please koi gadbad mat karma (Please don't create any problems).'
They assured me that nothing would happen.
Image: Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar. Inset: Yash Chopra
'I want to direct Amitabh again'
Ramesh Sippy has directed Amitabh Bachchan in the cult Sholay, as well as other landmark films like Shaan, Shakti and Akayla.
My association with Amitabh Bachchan goes back 40 years. We share a very warm and cordial relationship.
My first film with Amitabh was Sholay, which is still considered as one of the greatest films of Indian cinema. I had seen two of his films then -- Bombay To Goa, where he had a very light role and Anand, where his role was very intense.
It was (writers) Salim-Javed who suggested that I cast Amitabh as Jai in Sholay.
I directed him in three films after that -- Shaan, Shakti and Akayla. We have always had a lot of trust and understanding between us.
My association with him has grown from strength to strength. Amitabh has always been sincere and committed to his work. He has been a thorough professional. That is why he has lasted so long and is still doing fantastic roles.
Off late, I haven't written or come across anything that I can approach him with a role. The day I have a subject worthy of him, I will turn to him. I want to direct him again.
Image: Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra in Sholay. Inset: Ramesh Sippy
'Amitabh told me, 'If something happens to me, rush me to the hospital''
R Balki has directed Amitabh in films like Cheeni Kum and Paa.
I met Amitabh Bachchan for the first time while shooting an ad film for Parker pen.
When I saw him, I was totally in awe of him; I am huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan. I was just starring at him, it must have been emabrassing for him.
When I narrated the ad's story to him, I said the dialogues the way Amitabh Bachchan would say. I did not realise I was imitating him -- that was the only way I knew to speak in Hindi, in his style!
Amitabh Bachchan was staring at me, as I said the dialogues. There was no expression on his face. I was not sure whether he was offended or whether he was just amazed at what I was doing.
Later, I shot another ad for Parker pen, and that's when I told him I had a story idea of a film called Cheeni Kum. He asked me to write the script and come to him. I did. He liked the script and came on board.
We have a very professional relationship, with a lot of trust and honesty. We are very clear when we talk to each other, as we understand each other.
We share a warm personal relationship. He is more than a friend to me.
He has a great sense of humour and a very good sarcastic sense of humour. It's fun to be around him.
When we were shooting for Cheeni Kum, he was just out of hospital. We were shooting at the Qutub Minar, Delhi. He had to run to the Qutub Minar, and hug the iron pole in the premise.
He told me, 'Balki, I am not sure I can do this. I just got out of hospital, and there is no ambulance around.'
But he agreed. He said, 'If something happens to me, rush me to the hospital.'
He ran towards the iron pole as many as three times, until I okayed the shot.
When he watched the film together, he told me he loved that scene. Everybody was talking about it. That's when he told me, 'Had you told me this scene was going to come out so well, I would have put in some more effort!'
Image: Amitabh Bachchan in Cheeni Kum. Inset: R Balki