‘I keep telling Abhishek, “If your film doesn't work, you put up that criticism on the wall, get up in the morning and say you are going to work harder and prove yourself.”’
‘You can't call yourself a public figure and not expect the public to react. When they praise you, you take that well and when they throw brickbats, you say don't hit. How can you do that? It's not possible. It's not right and it's not expected either.’
Sitting in front of Bollywood’s only megastar, listening to the measured answers flow in that famous baritone, can be a hypnotic experience.
But while Amitabh Bachchan is civil and polite, he has clearly perfected the art of avoiding questions he does not wish to answer, discovers Rediff.com contributor Rajul Hegde.
Not much has been revealed about your character in the promos of Te3n. Could you talk about it?
It’s a mystery, so I can’t reveal much. My character is an Anglo Bengali who is 74 years old and is living in Kolkata. He has probably been in the administrative services and has retired. He is a middle class man and is resigned towards whatever life throws at him. He is not too strong physically.
There is an untoward incident involving his granddaughter and he wants to find out how it happened. Whether he succeeds or not is the story of the film. No sets have been constructed for this film; we have shot at real locations. It was a wonderful experience.
Which is your all time favourite thriller film?
All of Alfred Hitchcock’s films.
There is a belief that people in Kolkata are laidback.
I got my first job there. I spent eight years living and working there.
Who said they are laid back?
They are very intelligent and passionate about work. They seem laidback but they are not.
Bengalis love to debate, argue, discuss and have knowledge about every subject. You can pick somebody from the street and discuss anything from Einstein to the latest phone.
They have the desire to store things, especially old objects.
How was it working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, whom you admire so much?
Nawaz is such an exceptional talent.
He had a small part in Shoojit Sircar’s Shoebite; the film hasn’t released yet. He has just played a passing shot and I was amazed by his talent.
When I was working with Nawaz in Te3n, he told me that he had worked with me earlier in a Cadbury ad. I searched for the ad on the net; he has one small close-up.
Such talent enhances the people who work with them.
What did it feel like to ride a scooter in Te3n?
I last rode a scooter when I was in college, in the university. I did a bit of training here and then went to Kolkata. I think, in the end, it worked out.
You never forget how to swim or ride a motorcycle… you just have to get used to it (again).
It's rare to see someone criticise Amitabh Bachchan.
No, it's not rare. It's very natural. You get criticised every day for what you do, what you wear, what you said and what you do in films, how you worked, where you are… That's the freedom people have.
How do you take criticism?
I take it well. I think it's important. If you keep hearing good things about yourself, you will be a destroyed person.
No one is perfect. We all have our faults and we don't have the capacity to notice all that we do. So when there is a critic, a write-up or an assessment of your work, you get a different perspective.
It's wonderful to have another view point.
It helps in improving yourself, to take note of a flaw and take care of it. I don't look at criticism as rubbish and not read it. I sometimes use it as an incentive.
I keep telling Abhishek, “If your film doesn't work, you put up that criticism on the wall, get up in the morning and say you are going to work harder and prove yourself.”
There are times when things that are written are derogatory but that is the challenge creative people have.
If anything negative or bad is written about a star of your stature, does it have an impact on your professional and personal life?
There is no stature; I am just a person like you. It doesn't (affect or impact you); if you are a public figure, then you are bound to face all this. You have to reconcile with it.
You can't call yourself a public figure and not expect the public to react. When they praise you, you take that well and when they throw brickbats, you say don't hit. How can you do that? It's not possible. It's not right and it's not expected either.
So, yes, you must listen to criticism. That voice is needed but is not heard often.
This is how I look at it; I don't know about others. It's very essential that your mistakes are pointed out as it gives you the opportunity to improve.
Today, we have people like Tanmay Bhat trending. Do you think today insult comedy is increasingly growing derogatory?
I think it’s about what people feel comfortable with. If you are uncomfortable with it, or if it’s beyond the law, then there are great institutions to take care of such situations.
Do you think the Tanmay video (where the comedian parodied Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar) was blown out of proportion?
I don't know. I haven't seen it yet.
With regard to the Tanmay video or Aishwarya wearing purple lipstick, do you feel we don't have freedom of speech or the freedom to do what we want or wear what we want?
It's a matter of content. You will seek an opinion or seek response as that fills your content requirement. You will give it to 10 people on the Internet.
On television, it will be like this said this and that said that; there will be debates like the ones Arnab Goswami conducts.
What is the fact, what is the issue… is it pursued? That is more important. I think these are just not worthy of comment. I don't know anything about it and, even if I do, what good is it going to do?
Do you feel a celebrity can’t wear what she/he feels like or experiment or a guy can't say things or crack jokes?
The point is you have to go through your own democratic, constitutional laws otherwise you will be living in a different country.
There are certain rules and regulations and laws and you perform according to that.
Are you planning to do more work on television?
I have a contract with Kaun Banega Crorepati but we couldn’t do it this year. Perhaps it will happen next year.
I know Yudh didn’t work, but I am open to more fiction. If somebody wants to do one (another serial), I will more than happy.
Would you be interested in a web series, which seems to be becoming popular in India?
The time span and attention span has reduced. Instead of watching a three hour film, make something that is 15-20 minutes long which can be easily buffered on to your mobile phone…
You can watch it anywhere, so these are what Netflix, Amazon, etc, are working on.
Sujoy Gosh has produced Ahalya; it did well and got good views. I would be more than willing to do it.
What do you watch on television?
Game Of Thrones. Homeland. I saw portions of Quantico to see Priyanka Chopra. It was nice. I watch all the prominent shows.
Many young actors in the industry look up to you. Comment.
There are talented actors like Nawazudin and Irrfan Khan.
I wish I get an opportunity to work with younger talent like Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt and Kangana Ranaut, with whom I have done an ad.
I would like to work with all of them. I will get to learn so much from them.
You have been singing for many years but still you feel you are not a good singer (He has sung in Te3n).
I am not. There are fantastic machines, auto tuners… you sing anything it will come out perfect.
Do you sing for Aradhya?
No, she sings for me. This generation is different. They don’t like mollycoddling; it’s all straight talk.
Do you use ghost tricks with her?
You can’t use any tricks with the kids of today's generation because they are very smart. If we don't put on the television and her favorite cartoon, she doesn't eat her food.
You are doing a film with Aditya Chopra and Vijay Krishna Acharya. And a film with Shoojit Sircar and one with Bejoy Nambiar. Could you talk about them?
I can't talk about it. Adi has not told me yet.
Bejoy has not come to me with a story. I think he wants to make a short film of 15-20 minutes.
Pink is ready. It is produced by Shoojit Sircar and directed Tony Das Gupta and is based on women’s empowerment.
There is a film with Gaurang Doshi, Aankhen 2. I’m taking forward the same role. There’s a film with Ram Gopal Varma.
There are couple of other films that I am doing but I can't talk about it yet.