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May 13, 1999


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'Beggars can't be choosers'

The third part of Amitabh Bachchan's heart-to-heart talk with Vir Sanghvi.

Amitabh Bachchan
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Have you thought of retiring?

No, I haven't.



Why don't you at least play roles that suit your own age?

I have been saying that I am getting on in years. I have always told producers, let me play my age. But, a) there are not many roles that have an ageing factor in them, and b) the format of Hindi cinema is such that the producers I have been working with insisted that I could do this.

People say why are you dancing with Shilpa Shetty when she is young enough to be your daughter.

Amitabh Bachchan with Shilpa Shetty
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But I would dance with my daughter if I could. And if I can dance with Shilpa Shetty, then I will do that.

You don't feel that after a certain stage in your career you should do different roles and say an absolute no to this kind of role?

I'm not saying that I totally disagree with you. I agree yes, that I should respect this factor. But other than that, I'm just an actor and the duty of an actor is to do what he is asked to do.

Let me give you another standard criticism: why don't you do different films? Why don't you do a film with Govind Nihalini?

I want to. We've had several meetings. It's up to him to come up with something now.

But why do you work with so many relatively unknown directors? Why aren't you doing a film with Yash Chopra, for instance?

Beggars can't be choosers, you know. (Laughs.) More seriously, Yash Chopra will have to ask me to do something for him. I can't accept something I'm not offered.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on roles where I'm playing father and son, or just father or senior citizen. I'm quite happy with some of these experiments. There is Suryavansham, where it's father and son. There is Goram, where the character is in his mid-forties. There is a film where I am playing a senior lawyer, who is 50 years old... things like that.

Let's move away from movies. It has been said about you that virtually everything you do is controversial. You were controversial when you were in Hindi cinema. You were controversial when you were in politics. ABCL was controversial. Miss World has been controversial. What is it about you that attracts controversy?

Miss World contest
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Maybe this question should be answered by those who create the controversy. I just lead my life as naturally, as normally as I possibly can. But I can't help it if controversy is hounding me day in and day out. I'm quite amazed sometimes by the way they go about it. I grow a beard and it lands up in the editorial in The Times of India.

Was there an editorial?


I didn't know that.

I don't think my beard is so important that an editorial should be devoted to it. I recently saw in the same newspaper, in an editorial, a comment about Lal Badshah. Of all my films, of the 94 films of my entire career, Lal Badshah should end up in the editorial of The Times of India! I don't think I deserve it. I don't think my film deserves it. And I don't think my beard deserves it.

Why do you get this kind of attention?

Amitabh Bachchan in Lal Badshah
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I don't know. I really don't know. I guess economics has something to do with it. If something sells, well...

Your name sells?

I don't know. Perhaps this is something that the writers should answer. But yes, I guess if there is something that is exciting to the common man, if it makes good reading, it ends up in the paper. Bad news always sells. And I guess, I give a lot of bad news.

Even in 1979, when you were at your peak, the Press was speculating that it was all over for you. It took an accident for them to change their minds.

I want to be a little immodest and it's going to be a little uncomfortable for me. A lot of accolades have come my way. You've called me the most famous man in India. It's embarrassing for me to hear that because I know that it's not correct. But people have always talked about me as a failure. You want to talk about the fading of an icon? You never said I was an icon in the first place. But you want to talk about it in a derogatory fashion. You say the superstar has fallen. But you've never called me a superstar ever. It's only that you use these words when you want to say something derogatory.

I recently read some reviews of your latest film. They said that it doesn't live up to the standards of Deewar or Sholay or even Shahenshah. But I remember when Shahenshahwas released, the Press said that it didn't live up to the standards of your older films. They said he is too old, it's all over etc..

(Laughs) So there's hope for me. Five years from now the films I'm working on today will get some acclaim.

The Bachchan Interview continues: 'I don't have many friends'

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