Abhishek Bachchan on jumping off a cliff for Raavan, his role Beera, and working with wife Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Abhishek Bachchan must be a happy man — not everyone gets to work for Mani Ratnam thrice! His third film with the celebrated director, Raavan is slated to hit the marquees soon. The actor narrates the unforgettable experience the film was, and why his role is the most fun he's played yet. Excerpts.
We see you jumping off a cliff, in the Raavan promo. Did it yourself?
Yeah. It was in Hogenakkal, and it was 90-foot high. Mani said: ‘I can't let my lead actor jump; the river current is strong, and there's rock below the water'. The insurance guys agreed (laughs). But, I insisted I'd do it myself, for we had a diver along, to teach me. A five-year-old boy jumped next to us, those were kids who do it for money. So, I told Mani: ‘If he can do it, so can I.'
What was going on in your mind when you jumped?
The jump takes so long that you actually have the time to think ‘Oh God, I am going to die'… but, it was fun. I did it just once. In fact, I've not done a more physically and emotionally challenging film in my career. Shooting drains you, but you feel nice when you return home; you feel you've achieved something.
Could you connect to the mythological Raavan while playing this character?
Look, the film is not like any other film. However, it has glimpses of mythology, just like any other film. When I told Mani people will draw comparisons, he asked me to name one film that wasn't influenced by mythology. And, I couldn't! But, Raavan is a modern film. It is not inspired by any other character or contemporary leader. He is just a character Mani came up with.
But your character Beera is spoken of as having 10 heads… just like Raavan.
The ten heads refer to ten personalities — there are ten different facets that are easily referred to as dus sar. Incidentally, Beera's pet name in the film is Raavan. Beera is like an animal — he is wild and unpredictable. He's the most fun guy I've ever played. We actors make character sketches so we can follow them in deciding what a character would and wouldn't do. For example, there are certain things Gurukant Desai (Guru) could do and couldn't. But, Beera will be laughing one minute, and the next, there'll be anger on his face. The fun thing about Beera is there's nothing he won't do; he can get away with anything.
How was it to work with Mani Ratnam for the third time — after Yuva and Guru?
You are in awe of him because of what he brings to the table, but the moment he says cut, he becomes this close friend. His favourite line is ‘Keep it real, make it real'. While you are standing in five feet of freezing water, with snakes swimming around and leeches sticking to you, Mani says: ‘Do anything, but make it a convincing performance'. If you are standing under the waterfall or on a hostile terrain, you'll find Mani leading from the front, standing in waist-deep water himself. If he can do it, who are you to not?
Were you scared for Aishwarya that she too had to do stunts, as in the song ‘Behne de'?
You know what? Half-way through rough terrains, she was the one guiding me as to where to place my feet. In fact, she's the film's hero; Dev and Beera are the heroines. She was helping Kenny (actor Vikram) sir too. Kenny and I'd watch her stunts wondering: ‘kaise karti hai re? (hey, how does she do it?)'. Not just stunts, she picks up everything in a jiffy — think dance steps. So much so that after our three- or four-day dance rehearsals, our performance is judged against hers!
How is it to act with your wife?
It's great to work with one of the finest actors and one of the most dedicated professionals in the country. But, the best part is, the moment Mani announces ‘pack up', I'm with my wife!
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