By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Amitabh Bachchan, who is returning acting after a year-long absence, with Prakash Jha’s Satyagrah. The super star speaks with Subhash K. Jha on himself, family, Indian cinema and Hollywood.
Q: Amitji, you’re finally ready to return to film acting after a year with Prakash Jha’s Satyagraha. Did you miss the motion picture camera?
A: Yes ! I miss the camera each moment and each day. But my absence was deliberate, or rather, one that needed to be looked upon with some degree of caution and compulsion. I had two surgeries during the early part of 2012 and I was advised to restrict my work load.
Q: Looking back on the year when you stayed away from movie studios, what would you consider to to be the highlights and lowlights?
A: Personally, of course, they mostly centred around the presence of Aaradhya in the house and the joy she brings to each of our lives. Professionally, there was just television and KBC, and that again was momentous. I never realised that I was completing 500 episodes of my association with the game show, from the year 2000 to 2013 ! That is a long journey, but one that has been most fulfilling. Apart from the excitement that KBC brings as a show, there was the other matter of coming face to face with real India, its people their issues and problems and our little effort in converting their lives substantially. Truly a life-changing experience for many of the contestants.
Q: Amitji, 2012 saw you touch new pinnacles of success with Kaun Banega Crorepati. Recently a victim of an acid attack went away with sizeable prize money for her plastic surgery. Which was your most memorable KBC encounter of the year?
A: Well, as I just said, the fact that KBC became a life changing experience for those contestants who did well was most heartening. But yes, some of the horrid stories that we came to gather from the contestants, in particular the acid attack victim was abominable. The atrocities that the girl child suffers through gender discrimination in most parts of the country was unbearable. Yet,despite those trying circumstances, for them to come out of those deplorable conditions and attain such heights of victory on the Hot Seat, was remarkable. It merely proved beyond doubt that given an opportunity women too were no less than their male counterparts. And this was ably demonstrated by the only lady 5 crore winner ever at KBC, this season !For those that suffered other kinds of physical and social harm, I was so pleased to find a huge amount of response from the viewers of the show, where many have come forward voluntarily to help in whatever manner they can, to alleviate the most extenuating circumstances that some of our own have suffered !
Q: No doubt your role as grandfather to Aaradhya was your favourite during the year. How has the presence of this lovely little lady changed your life?
A: All our activities are centred around her and her timings. Her progress in speech movement and behaviour, most endearing, are closely followed and enjoyed.
Q:Which were your favourite films in recent times, and why?
A: I enjoyed many and was most impressed by the fresh talent now invading our film firmament with gusto and immense quality. Paan Singh Tomar, Gangs of Wasseypur, Kahaani, Vicky Donor, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, Dabangg 2, Bol Bachchan … All were enjoyable.
Q: Why ?
A: Well, I notice a marked shift in the appreciation level of our audiences, and so too in the makers. As a creative agency the film industry is thinking great subjects, presenting them wonderfully well and giving opportunity to new faces each day. This is not just true for the Hindi cinema but indeed all the regional cinema as well. Marathi cinema, for example, is making some of the most extraordinary films, as are the films in the Southern part of our country. India as a film-making nation has gained recognition, at last, at most important Western and Far Eastern forums. There is a dignity and respect which we are achieving each year, and this bodes well for all of us during the historic completion of a 100 years of Indian Cinema !!
Q: 2012 was also the year of your Hollywood debut. How do you look back on the experience of working with Baz Luhrmann in The Great Gatsby?
A: This cannot be called a debut in the real sense. It is a mere friendly gesture at best. A fleeting ‘half a blink and you miss a link’ presence. But that short experience of working with Baz Luhrmann was special. The work ethics, attitude and discipline was all a huge learning graph for me.
Q: Are there any other international projects on the anvil?
Q: You recently shot with Anurag Kashyap. Any plans of a feature film with him?
A: Yes, there is a project that is being worked on. And from the looks of it should materialize by the early part of 2014.
Q: Amitji, you are now closely associated with Gujarat .What are your observations on Narendra Modiji’s resounding electoral victory and what plans do you have for Gujarat’s tourism in 2013?
A: My association with Gujarat is confined to its tourism and with that I believe, or so I am informed, we have been able to achieve great interest in the region. The numbers have increased exponentially and there is rapid work being executed in the building of infrastructure to cater to the growing tourist visitors. I am non-political so I shall not be able to answer the other part of your question. But the victory of Mr Narendra Modi is the outcome of a democratic election process and we respect that.
Q: Would you like to see the Hindi film industry move closer to Gujarat? If so, are there plans afoot to bring members of the film fraternity into Gujarat?
A: There are many exciting locations in the State and I am certain if a particular film required adequate facility for shootings, the State would provide it.
Q: Jayaji has been extremely vocal and passionate on the issue of sexual aggression against women. Amitji, do you feel cinema has the power to change primitive barbaric and outdated mindsets on gender politics?
A: I feel strongly that not just cinema but all our public vocations or mediums should conduct exercises to look within and ascertain what can be done to rid ourselves of this very grave situation. Every powerful medium that has the capacity to form opinion or cause impression on the polity should make all efforts to give this malaise in our society a primary spot, to make aware, to repair, to comment, so that such acts are not only erased but when perpetrated, be dealt with with the severest punishment.
Q: You play a social reformist in Prakash Jha’s Satyagrah. How much of the political reality around us would you allow to infiltrate your character in the film?
A: I would imagine that is something you shall have to wait for till the film is released, to ascertain.