It is about 8.20 p.m., at the cosy suite of Taj Coromandel. One man’s charisma seems to envelop the entire space, ensuring one’s attention does not stray away even for a minute. Attired in a white kurta-pyjama and a grey, woollen shawl wrapping his shoulders, he clears his throat to begin to speak.
Amitabh Bachchan, who was in the city on Wednesday for sound mixing work for his soon-be-released film Paa took time off and spoke to The Hindu about the film, his blog that he passionately maintains, his son, current trends in the film industry and more. Excerpts from the interview…
“An exquisite trio” – this is how Bachchan describes the team of director Balki-cinematographer P.C. Sreeram and Illayaraja – with which he has worked again for Paa, after his much acclaimed Cheeni Kum. With evident fondness, he speaks of his colleagues on the project.
“Balki always tries something different. His style of making films is away from the recognised format. His writing is exceptional. P.C…what can one say! He is the guru in cinematography. Illayaraja, another genius! It’s fortunate that they are all working on this film.”
Emphasising the professionalism of technicians from the south, he says: “I have always believed that the southern film industry conducts itself in a more disciplined and professional manner than the one in Mumbai. I hope some of this culture percolates there.” In Paa, Bachchan plays 13-year-old Auro, who suffers from Progeria, a rare genetic disorder, leading to the child ageing faster than normal.
“Getting me to do that role was a challenge and Balki always wants to do something different – whether it’s giving me a ponytail or getting me attracted to a lady half my age, to getting me to play a 13-year-old or getting my son to play my father. I look upon it as a challenge and every artist needs to keep challenging himself everyday. We discover new ways to excite our creativity.” He says it’s his good fortune that he gets such role “in this age”.
The current cinema audience is in the age group 18-35 and “they want something different.” The industry is slowly moving from the escapist commercial fare, he feels. He looks all shrunk and tiny in the promotional stills of the film without the use of graphics. How was this possible?
“That’s the genius of P.C. Sreeram. We went through a lot of consultation, trials and errors before we decided what kind of lens, camera angles and so on. It’s the wizardry of the cinematographer. And, of course the make-up.” Every make-up session took nearly five hours and removing it after the shoot took nearly two hours. “In a day, I spent about 6 to 7 hours in front of a make-up mirror.”
On his son
On playing Abhishek Bachchan’s son in the film, he says: “Well we are just playing the characters of the film and behave accordingly. But well, as a son, Abhishek is just wonderful. He is more a friend of mine and I really enjoy that relationship.”
Even on a busy day if Bachchan sets aside time for something without fail, it is his blog, which is quite a rage online.
On his blog
“It has become a kind of compulsion now. I started talking to myself…and then a couple of people started listening and responding. Soon we had an entire community. Nothing that I write is really planned. Everyday, just before going to sleep, I just murmur a few lines to myself,” he laughs.
With tens of thousands of his fans visiting the site everyday, the blog gives him an opportunity to reach out to his ‘community’ directly without another carrier, eliminating the possibility of misrepresented or distorted.
“It also gives me an opportunity to get reactions from respondents…not all of that is complementary. There is criticism, abuse, and disagreement, but I encourage that and enjoy that. ”
Asked if he would blog on Wednesday too, considering that he had a really long day, he says with a child-like grin. “Definitely! Once we are through, that’s what I will do.”