At 68, Amitabh Bachchan continues to push boundaries and experiment with roles. Harshikaa Udasi talks to the angry-young-man-turned-diligent-old-man, ahead of his new release Teen Patti
He's played a child with progeria in Paa, a magical genie in Aladin, a conscientious media baron in Rann — all in the last six months. But the story never really ends for Amitabh Bachchan. In his next film Teen Patti, he's all set to play a mathematician who challenges the theory of probability. Point out that that's an offbeat role designed for mainstream Hindi cinema, as offbeat as one can get for a role designed mainstream Hindi cinema, and he says, “That's good because it's essential for an artiste to be challenged every day. Earlier, I played the leading man; therefore it was very difficult to do something different all the time because it would disturb the identity of commerce. Even then I got an opportunity to work in a lot of films by directors such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee, with whom I have done maximum work, Prakash Mehra, Salim-Javed, Manmohan Desai and Ramesh Sippy, who had different concepts about filmmaking. The ‘angry young man' was not my only thing. Then I got the opportunity to work from generation to generation. Now that I am 68 I can't do my previous roles obviously. It's good that the roles now are different and I am enjoying them and working harder.”
As the rejected mathematician in the Leena Yadav-directed Teen Patti, Amitabh Bachchan shares screen space with Sir Ben Kingsley and R. Madhavan. The film is the story of a man and the situations he gets into when he realises that not everything is random as widely assumed. Venkat Subramanium (Amitabh Bachchan) figures out a mathematical formula decoding the card game of poker that helps him precisely point out which card is held by whom. Thus begins a game of intrigue, greed and avarice that affects all those connected to Venkat, including his colleague (Madhavan) and his students.
Working with Leena Yadav, an advertising professional-turned-director, whose debut film Shabd starring Sanjay Dutt, Aishwarya Rai and Zayed Khan fared badly at the box office, was no different from working with a male director, says the actor. “Just because someone is a woman, it doesn't automatically make her better at handling women-centric subjects. Men are equally good at it. I am more appreciative of the fact that as a woman she (Leena) has taken up a job mainly taken up by men. The producer (Ambika Hinduja) is also a woman and so were all the assistants on Leena's sets. I am all for encouraging women in every field, including cinema,” he says. But considering the tepid response to Shabd (the story of a writer who pushes his wife into a test of loyalty) and Leena's seeming penchant for unusual stories, what kind of response does he expect for Teen Patti? “We sometimes don't necessarily make a film as a product for people to like. I think the subject is her call. I enjoyed acting in the movie and she did enjoy making it,” he says.
This is the first movie which has two acting greats come together. Sir Ben Kingsley, who plays Venkat's idol, an internationally-renowned genius mathematician, was a knowledgeable and humble colleague to have, says Bachchan. “He's a wonderful person and obviously a very good actor. He comes prepared to the sets and we would often sit and work on scenes together. He's informal just like any other colleague,” he says.
As for his plans for AB Corp that has got a fresh lease of life with the recent success of Paa, the Bachchans are inundated with scripts. “We are looking at a lot of fresh ideas and have not yet zeroed in on anything,” he says. Meanwhile, the Marathi film Vihir produced by his production house has been to the Berlin and London Film festivals.
Working with Aamir
Ask him about the film Aamir Khan is reported to be acting in and also directing, and he says it was something he mentioned on his blog. “Aamir and I keep expressing to each other that we should work together but nothing has materialised as yet.” But if Mohanlal has his way, AB could be appearing in a cameo in the former's next film. “I was in Kerala recently to felicitate Resul Pookutty and I met Mohanlal there. Hopefully there will be a short role,” he smiles. There have been no new films signed by the actor since last year so he might not have any release this year after four back-to-back ones since 2009.
As in a game of poker, asked about the significance of randomness and fate in his own life, Bachchan says, “I claim to be an actor. I keep getting films. I go ahead and do them. If that's my fate I accept it. If that's a random decision, then that's acceptable too! Thank God actually that you don't know what's random and what's fated, else there would be too many expectations from life.”