"I do not believe in superstars. For me the only superstar has been Dilip Kumar and he will always be. I don't consider anybody after him as a superstar," said Bollywood actress and MP Jaya Bachchan in New Delhi, while interacting with Indian Women's Press Corps.
She came across as a cultured citizen in her thinking about current issues, quite dominating in small things of life and edgy about her surroundings. She was looking for interaction with women journalists and not a press conference. Like all celebrities, she disliked uncomfortable questions.
Bachchan was quite irritated by two television reporters who were using their mobile phones incessesantly, sitting in the front row. At one point, she said, "My mind works faster than my hands, unlike these two girls' hands."
At one point she seriously objected to still photographers who were shooting her pictures while squatting on the floor that angle would not do her justice.
She took on reporters who started asking questions about Amitabh Bachchan and Samajwadi party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav which she refused to answer. She said, "I am not standing in the dock. I am not a thief."
Later she relented and answered a few of them. She said that she had to face difficult moments in her party when she disagreed, but could not comment on it because she didn't want to look undisciplined.
When asked was it difficult to maintain her own identity in her life with Bachchan? She said, "I belong to a middle class family from Bhopal. My father was fearless. I am greatly influenced by my father who was a journalist. My parents never sat down to teach me anything; they lived exemplary life to set a lesson for me.'
While lauding Dilip Kumar she indirectly conveyed that she doesn't consider her husband Amitabh Bachchan as a superstar or even a super actor. It was an unforgettable moment to see such honesty and courage to express her view in front of cameras.
She claimed she liked Irrfan Khan and Raghubir Yadav's acting, and also liked to watch Arsad Warsi and Atul Kukarni's films.
When asked about her son Abhishek Bachchan's handicap of acting under father Amitabh's shadow, she said, "If he really has it in him, then he will overcome the towering figure (Amitabh). He must struggle in order to achieve. I know when Amitji came ( in film industry) people used to say 'are you mad? Why are you working with this guy? He will never make it.' Same people who said this have worked with him, regularly, later."
She said, "Not only as mother but as student of cinema and acting I would like to see an actor, it can be Abhishek or anybody, who can really take on Amitabh Bachchan." She added, "Why not? Somebody hopefully, better (than Amitabh)?"
When asked do you want Sharukh Khan to take on Amitabh? She said, "Why not?" But, when asked is he better than Amitabh? She said, "Are you asking a wife?" Then, jokingly she said, "I am a loyal wife."
When asked to describe Amitabh Bachchan in one word, she said it diplomatically in two words, "My husband." She didn't support the idea that the Bachchan family should act together in a film. She thinks, "It is too close for comfort."
She did her own mimicry and said that when media asks them they do say, "We'd love to (act together in a film)."
Then, she acted out the film scene and said, "Can you imagine Amit ji telling me (in the film) the towels are not clean and making a face for giving him dirty towels? I mean, four of us will be too much."
She reacted bluntly when a reporter said that Amitabh has said in an interview that Jaya insisted that Sweta should marry early in her life. Jaya said, "Amit ji must be sleeping when he said that."
She said her daughter Shweta is very shy. "I asked Shweta, did you never want to act in films? She said, 'Mamma are you crazy?' She is very shy. She writes well. She is a bookworm."
Jaya said Shweta was offered work at NDTV but she was not ready yet. Shweta wants to work only after her children grow up.
Jaya said that she loves her grandchildren more than her children. She won the hearts of many young women when she said, "I have to tell you something. I think, in today's time and in this century, it's fine not be married. It's fine not to have children. What are we bringing in children into this world for? Look at the world we are giving them. I don't believe that girls must get marry. If I didn't have fallen in love, I would not have married."
She and Amitabh got married because his parents would not allow them to go for holidays without marriage. She said, "Honestly, I don't think it is necessary for a girl to marry to fulfill all her desires of being a woman." She also said that she was keen to join army, but she could not, because in those times it was not easy and girls could join army as nurses or doctors only.
Her political thinking was clear in the way she responded to political questions related to Sonia Gandhi or Congress party. She was asked, "Will you join Congress if Sonia (Congress president) asked you to join?" She said, emphatically, " No." But, she added, "How can you call her Sonia? Is she known to you?" She told reporter to address her, "Sonia ji."
When asked why the relations between Bachchans and Gandhis, India's two most famous families, were strained, she evaded the questions and said, "It happens in life."
While talking about her daughter-in-law Aishwarya she said, "She is my buddy. If I don't like something about her, I tell her on her face. I don't do politics behind her back. If she disagrees with me, she expresses herself."
She made everyone laugh when she said, "Only difference is that I can be little more dramatic and she has to be more respectful. I am old, you know. That's all," she said.
"We really enjoy sitting at home and talking rubbish. Just the two of us. She doesn't have much time, but whatever she does, we enjoy. I have a great relationship with her"
She said in her life she was also influenced by her mother and a god-mother whom she respects. She refused to name her, but she said she is quite private and uncomplicated person. Talking about inspiring women she said, "Hema Malini is fantastic. I like her courage and dignity that she carries on herself. I like the life she leads."
When she was asked about Cheeni Kum, in which Amitabh Bachchan falls in love with a much younger woman, she made it clear that the idea didn't gel with her. She said, "Falling in love is a painful process."
She doesn't believe in such relations, but added, "I believe in freedom of thoughts. If you believe in it and if you enjoy it and if you think you are doing well, then fine."
When asked how is she feeling living in the home where there are four superstars, she said, raising three fingers, that she is not a superstar. "They are stars. I am super!" Then she added, "I am the supremo. You know I provide them with bread."
She said that she doesn't watch all of Amitabh's films. She hasn't seen Teenpatti, Bachchan's latest film. In early years of their marriage, when both of them used to see his movies, Amitabh used to tell Jaya while asking her opinion on his acting, ' Okay, shoot, now! Kill me!" Now, he has stopped asking her opinion, she said.
It was quite clear when she spoke about the family she dotes on her Bachchan identity. Jaya repeated again that for her 'family is first.' She said her career and politics are far behind the family. She said, "You can call me a non-serious politician."
She didn't support nor totally oppose the Women's Reservation Bill. She said she is cynical about it. She is not sure if ordinary village women or women of towns would make it to the Parliament. She didn't spell out her stand fully.
Amar Singh, confidante of the Bachchan family has been asked to leave the party but she is still with Samajwadi Party. Her tenure in Rajya Sabha is ending, but she didn't reveal her future political plans. She said, "I don't plan. Whenever I have planned, things have gone wrong in my life. So, I don't plan." She said she is not worried about her future.
"If I will feel good I will continue."
When asked if she would launch her own political party, Jaya said, "I don't have that kind of guts."
She defended the Samjawadi Party by saying that it's a party working at the grassroots. She said, "We live in the glamorous city of Mumbai. There is a difference between urban people and the party. But, it's necessary to know grassroots. It wasn't difficult for me because I belonged to the middle class."
She said, "Personally I feel the absence of Amar Singh in the party."
In the end of interaction, she strongly expressed her displeasure against an article where Aishwarya's so-called medical issue was written about.
She said, "I feel we women make a big deal about reservation bill, but we should ask ourselves that when we are writing or discussing about another women, how far we are ready to go. We are women and let us be very honest. Let us not be selective there."
She continued, "Recently, our family faced a certain incident where openly certain things were written. When we refuted and asked for apology, they gave private apology and not the public one. That is very wrong and the editor of that paper is a lady."
"What do you think of the reservation bill etc such questions are superficial talks and just show off. I want to ask, you being a women journalist, how sensitive are you on women's issues?"
She said while writing on women that reporters must verify and if mistakes are made, then stand up and accept it. She said, "Things are going beyond limits where people are attacked personally by media. Come on, you are writing about someone's anatomy. Its very, very wrong."
"When you are writing about women, one should give a thought," she pleaded.
Her family's tremendous position in public life, her family's wealth and power of being a Bachchan herself was also visible in her talks, but it was subtle. That is the strength of having brought up in the Indian middle class family, may be.