Amar Singh praises Amitabh Bachchan for his "dignified silence" over Congress criticism on promoting Gujarat

Expelled Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh on Tuesday came out in defence of old friend Amitabh Bachchan on the issue of the Congress' criticism of the actor for becoming the brand ambassador of Gujarat, governed by “riot-tainted” Narendra Modi.

Mr. Singh and Mr. Bachchan shared the stage at a function of the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, about 25 km from here.

Their appearance came against the backdrop of a speech Mr. Singh made on Sunday in which he hinted at being hurt by Jaya Bachchan's refusal to quit the Samajwadi Party after his own removal.

At the function on Tuesday, however, the old friends did not show any signs of a rift between them. Mr. Singh praised Mr. Bachchan for having maintained a “dignified silence” in the face of the Congress' criticism. However, on his behalf, Mr. Singh said: “Who is he [Mr. Bachchan], or any citizen, to speak about the Godhra riots [of 2002] when the Supreme Court is looking into that?”

Mr. Singh pointed to the irony of the fact that years ago when Mr. Bachchan was shooting for a film called Main Azaad Hoon (I am free), members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, students wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, had disrupted the shoot because Mr. Bachchan was close to Rajiv Gandhi.

Alluding also to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray's questioning of Mr. Bachchan's contribution to Maharashtra, Mr. Singh said it was unfair to question Mr. Bachchan's secular or Maharashtrian credentials. He said Mr. Bachchan's AB Corp. Limited recently produced a Marathi film Vihir (The Well) and it was appreciated greatly at international film festivals.

“The BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] termed him [Mr. Bachchan] the star of the millennium,” he said. “He belongs as much to Uttar Pradesh or Maharashtra or Orissa or Assam as he does to the Middle East or Egypt. He belongs to the entire world.”

On his part, Mr. Bachchan said he was grateful for having a friend like Mr. Singh, whom he called a leader of his conscience and thinking. Though he did not speak of his treatment by the Congress, Mr. Bachchan said criticism was an important part of life.

“I think of criticism as the black spot that a mother puts on her child's face to ward off the evil eye,” he said. “I ask [my son] Abhishek to cut out articles criticising him that appear in newspapers and stick them on the wall. I ask him to look at them every day and use them as inspiration to disprove whatever has been said at some point.”

He also narrated anecdotes about his father, Harivanshrai Bachchan, on the importance of being patient and of taking small steps that eventually lead to success.