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    'The Amitabh no one knows is my friend'

    Tinnu Anand

    I've known Amitabh Bachchan since 1968, when he first came to Bombay from Calcutta to act in K A Abbas' Saat Hindustani.

    He has been a friend from the beginning of our careers.

    It so happened that I was entertaining our common friend, Meena Singh, who had come to Bombay from Delhi. Abbas was to join us for dinner. He saw her, he asked her if she would like to act in his film.

    She said, "Why not?"

    A fortnight or so later, she gave me a photograph of Amit, asking me to give it to Abbas -- most people were intimidated by him, and she knew that we were friends. I remember the photograph, too. This tall, lanky awkward-looking man in front of the Victoria Memorial. As a favour, I passed on the photograph.

    AMIT came; he was interviewed by Abbas. And he got the role. In fact, he got the role I was to do in the film because I had to go off to Calcutta to assist Satyajit Ray.

    And no, I wasn't upset that he got my role. Because I knew that my face was never meant to be an actor.

    Amit and I have been friends ever since.

    Those days, there was a magazine called Junior Statesman. Its editor, Desmond Doig, had once asked me -- while I was still assistant to Ray -- who would I cast for my first film.

    I said, "Amitabh Bachchan."

    That was when he was a nobody. Amit never forgot that. He wrote me a little note thanking me.

    That camarederie has lasted over the years.

    HE came to Calcutta for the premiere of the film Sanjog.

    I took him to meet Ray. I remember how both of us stood like schoolboys behind Ray when he was editing his film. Satyajit Ray then told Amitabh, "I've seen your film," though he never said he would like to work with him.

    A little while later, Ray did use Amitabh Bachchan. In Shatranj Ke Khiladi.

    I went on to make made four films with him Kaalia, Shahenshah, Main Azaad Hoon and Majorsaab.

    He has always been frank with me and has never done anything to abuse that trust.

    I had started a film with him called Shinaat, which had Madhuri opposite him for the first time.

    We shot for five days. By then, Ganga Jamuna Saraswati was released. I realised the character Amit was playing was very close to the one in my film .

    I asked him why he didn't he tell me, and he replied, "I've played Anthony many times over so I didn't think there was any need to tell you."

    I felt both characters were too similar and told him so.

    He asked me, "Tinnu, do you want to continue with the film or not?"

    I said certainly not. He said, "If you think it was my fault, I'm prepared to accept it. I am prepared to bear the losses with you."

    He gave me the money, though he had shot for five days. He and Rajnikanth are the only two men who don't think of their food, their money.

    That's the Amitabh Bachchan no one knows. He is also the only friend who has given me 23 watches!

    ONE day, I barged into his room without knocking one day during the shooting of Shahenshah and I saw him in front of the mirror rehearsing his lines.

    Here he is, a superstar, already someone who knew acting. Yet, he was rehearsing by himself like a newcomer. He had not stopped working.

    I have worked with so many actors -- not only as director but as an actor, too. But no one has taken his job quite so seriously as Amit has -- even today. That's exactly what makes him different. Maybe an Aamir Khan. I can't name any other other actor who has worked like Amitabh after attaining so much success.

    I have liked him in total comic roles like Chupke Chupke. But I loved him in Anand.

    Parwana, Amitabh's second film, had him playing a villain. There is one scene where he talks about the girl he loves and that he has seen her in someone else's arms . And he says that I can't see it.

    That will tell you the range of Amitabh Bachchan. It was only his second film after Saat Hindustani.

    I don't think anything, not even Deewar can compare to that one scene in which he has this long monologue. He speaks about hating anyone even casting his eyes on his girlfriend. It's a beautiful scene.

    WHAT sets him apart is the fact that he could turn his negative qualities into positive ones.

    When he walked into the industry, everyone told him that he was too tall for his heroines, too thin, too unconventional. And when he did make a mark in films, he had a very unconventional hairstyle which the whole country copied. He made the unconventional acceptable.

    He has lasted so long because of the ability to not stop working.

    Tinnu Anand spoke to Lata Khubchandani

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