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March 2, 2001


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Amitabh Bachchan, All The Best

Sujata Chanda

Is he for real?

Gaurang Doshi, Amitabh Bachchan and Vipul Shah Gasps of disbelief rend the air as Amitabh Bachchan appears on the platform of Mahalaxmi railway station, Bombay.

The scene outside the station Thursday, March 1, is, needless to say, chaotic. The hysterical crowds are not willing to yield an inch to anyone wanting to have a better glimpse of one of the most popular stars ever of Indian cinema.

He is shooting a sequence for producer Gaurang Doshi's All The Best.

The cops are having a tough time keeping the crowd's frenzy under control. As many as 75 policemen are needed to keep the fans at bay. Rarely does one hear of an assistant commissioner of police being posted to supervise security at a film shoot in the metropolis. But then, this is no ordinary shooting.

Producer Gaurang Doshi is in an exuberant mood -- he has reason to be supremely confident about the film he is making. "The presence of Amitabh Bachchan in my film is, in itself, a big satisfaction," he exclaims.

He has taken care to bolster the film's cast further by adding a galaxy of stars including Akshay Kumar, Sushmita Sen, Arjun Rampal, Aditya Pancholi and Paresh Rawal. What's more, the recently-crowned Mrs World, Aditi Govitrikar, also makes a cameo appearance in the film.

Gaurang is the son of producer Vinod Doshi, who made Sachha Jhutha (starring Rajesh Khanna), Blackmail (starring Vinod Khanna) and Nastik (the Amitabh-Hema starrer).

The story of All The Best is adapted by writer Aatish Kapadia from his own Gujarati play, Andhla Pato (the Gujarati equivalent of the children's game, Blind Man's Buff), staged in 1992.

Aatish, however, is more known as the writer of the popular Gujarati serial, Sapnana Vavetar, and its Hindi version, Ek Mahal Ho Sapnon Ka. He also wrote Indra Kumar's Mann.

"All The Best is a thriller with lots of twists and turns," says he, not wanting to reveal much about the story.

Gaurang Doshi, Vinod Doshi and Amitabh Bachchan But how does Amitabh Bachchan figure in a film by newcomers, one wants to know. "The moment director Vipul Shah and I conceived the film, I decided to write the script keeping Bachchan Sa'ab in mind," replies the writer.

But Amitabh doesn't really consent to work in any and every newcomer's film, does he? "It wasn't easy to convince him," concurs director Vipul Shah, adding, "Amitji insisted on a narration of the entire script in a single sitting."

Being in possession of a bound script, the writer-director duo was only too glad to agree to the superstar's demand.

Come the day of the narration, the duo called on Amitabh Bachchan. He received them warmly, put them at ease and, after giving a patient hearing, said that he had liked the subject. He gave his consent to do the negative role.

Amitabh Bachchan will be seen enacting a bad man after nearly three decades -- that is, after Parwana (1972) and Gehri Chaal (1973).

The conversation with the writer-director duo is interrupted as the director has to take the next shot.

The cinematographer Ashok Mehta and his assistants manage to achieve the impossible task -- getting the crowds to maintain silence during the shot.

A blind Paresh Rawal, dressed in rags, alights from a train that has just pulled in. As he walks ahead, Amitabh begins to follow him. He is about to grab Paresh by the collar when the blind man suddenly turns around, much to Amitabh's astonishment.

Three retakes later, the shot is canned. Ashok Mehta cannot stop beaming, impressed with the performances of the two seasoned actors. Not to mention the surging crowds.

Free from the shot, Amitabh is available to reveal his thoughts on the film. Or is he? "I play the central character in the film," is all he says. Reluctant to add anything further, he fears he might inadvertently reveal the character he plays.

Repeated pleading finally has him revealing, "I play a meticulous, disciplined and successful bank manager, who brings a lot of prosperity to the bank where he works. He has a low tolerance for dishonesty, which leads him to raise his hand on a staff member found to cheat the bank. As a result, the manager is sacked."

Amitabh is all praise for today's breed of young directors. Vipul Shah being one of them. Not only has he successfully directed several TV serials (Sapnana Vavetar, Ek Mahal Ho Sapnon Ka and others), he has also called the shots for a Gujarati film, Dariya Chhoru.

An interesting aside: While shooting the Gujarati film, he fell in love with its star, Shefali Chhaya, and only recently married her.

Affirms Amitabh Bachchan, "Vipul is extremely cooperative, and very strong in the execution of shots."

Paresh Rawal, Vinod Doshi and Gaurang Doshi On his current approach to films, Amitabh Bachchan says, "In Suneel Darshan's Ek Rishtaa -- The Bond Of Love and Karan Johar's Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, I play my age, which is what I am content doing now.

"The script and the narration of each of the three films are so refreshingly different that I am enjoying working to the fullest at the moment." It is this freshness in filmmaking that makes Amitabh a self-confessed fan of the young directors.

Shooting on a railway platform after a long gap makes Amitabh reminisce about similar experiences in his earlier films, Coolie and Shakti: "But there seems to be no difference at all. The experience of travelling by Bombay's local trains seems to be the same for commuters even after all these years," he notes.

For Paresh Rawal, accolades to awards has been "a long and good journey."

His Hera Pheri not only earned him the Filmfare and the Screen-Videocon Awards for the best comedian of 2000, but all-round recognition he truly deserves. On his role in All The Best, he says, "I play a blind beggar in this film. The role may be tiny in comparison to my other films, but I provide the proverbial twist in the tale in All The Best!"

Broach the subject of the film's music and producer Gaurang Doshi is all smiles: "Jatin-Lalit have given amazing tunes to the lyrics of Praveen Bharadwaj." The theme song in the film has been rendered by Amitabh Bachchan (recitation rather than singing) and Remo Fernandes. The superstar is excited about the song, though he admits, "I've done these things before..."

There are six songs in the film, of which four have already been recorded. Two will be picturised in a stint in South Africa, between March 26 and April 10.

The film is nearly 50 per cent over, informs Gaurang Doshi, adding that it would be completed by the year-end.

How much scope does the rest of the cast have in a film that revolves around Amitabh Bachchan?

A lot, if director Vipul Shah is to be believed. Though he does not exactly elaborate. For the moment, all he reveals is that Aditi Govitrikar appears only in a song with Akshay Kumar, while Aditya Pancholi plays a cop.

A final poser for Amitabh Bachchan: What would describe him better -- game show host or actor? "A little bit of both," quips Big B.

Design: Lynette Menezes

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