Abhishek Bachchan talks to harshikaa udasi on the challenge of playing dad to his father, and turning producer
He’s poised to complete a decade in the film industry, and Abhishek Bachchan’s life seems to have come full circle.
For a boy who was often written off and accused of never moving out of his father’s shadow, Abhishek is ready for the role of his life — playing dad to his own father. Their special relationship is the crux of Paa. “We’ve had four releases together, and in three he’s played my dad,” says Abhishek, referring to Bunty Aur Babli, and the three others portraying the duo as father-son: Sarkar, Sarkar Raj and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. “But, this one’s special,” he smiles.
It obviously is. Abhishek turns producer with this AB Corp flick. In Paa, Abhishek plays Amol Arte, a young Parliamentarian from Lucknow whose son Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) has Progeria, a condition that causes children to age five times faster.
Ask how difficult it was for the actor within to play his own father’s father, and Abhishek confesses it was easier than he had imagined. “We thought it would be difficult to emote but when you go on the sets, professionalism takes over. Of course, this being a creative medium, it is difficult to keep aside emotions, but it also helped that he and I have done so much work together.”
Does the Amitabh effect not unnerve him? “When you work with dad, you tend to get overawed; yet, his demeanour makes everyone comfortable. Definitely, that parental instinct is present when he knows his son is out there working with him,” says Abhishek.
Director Balki has often confessed his fondness for Amitabh Bachchan, and like his previous Cheeni Kum, he wanted to give the actor a role to remember. Would they have settled for anyone else to play Auro? “We wanted it to be essentially a film about two individuals who happen to be father and son, and the camaraderie between them. My grandfather always used to tell dad that once your child starts wearing your shoes, then treat him as your friend. I started wearing my dad’s shoes when I was 13; so, we have been buddies since, and with this kind of film it was essential this aspect comes out strongly. Given my father’s calibre as an actor, and the relationship we share, I don’t think anyone else could’ve pulled it off,” he says.
Why is the film being pitched as light-hearted when the child has a rare disease? “Progeria is just a backdrop. We are not treating it as a ‘special’ film. I am happy the film is being instrumental in creating awareness about the disease, but five minutes into it, you will forget that Auro has Progeria and you will leave the theatre with a grin on your face. We had to introduce Progeria since it was a role reversal and we needed a plausible reason for dad to look like my son,” he explains.
Abhishek is also excited about playing a politician in the film, and says he wanted the character to come across as a positive personality. “I was keen on showing him as a liberal rather than as a stereotypical, filmi politician. I bet people will actually like this new side to politicians,” he laughs.
What’s more, thanks to some solid weight loss and having put the razor to use after a good three-year-gap, Abhishek’s looking his best. Brand Abhishek is on a roll too. After the success of the Idea Cellular campaign, the new Lux commercial with wife Aishwarya has also been appreciated. The couple has even gamely agreed to do a commercial that hints at some ‘good news’, and instead talks about a special gold coin offer with Lux. What prompted them to do that? “Well, it was the agency’s idea, and Ash and I have never taken these things seriously, though I can’t understand this national-level interest in me becoming a father. I keep telling everyone now that I have a son — Auro!”
Abhishek’s roster is full with more than half-a-dozen films: Mani Ratnam’s Raavan with Aishwarya Rai, Abhinay Deo’s untitled film, a film with friend Rohan Sippy, Dostana 2, Abbas Mustan’s remake of The Italian Job, Neeraj Pandey’s Special Chabbis and Ashutosh Gowariker’s Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se.
All this is a far cry from his rocky initial days. “It feels so good. It makes you want to work harder so that the days of the past do not re-emerge,” he says, candidly.