SUDHISH KAMATH finds that it's discipline and desire to learn that makes Abhishek Bachchan what he is today.
Abhishek Bachchan...on a high. Photo: R. Ragu.
BEING BIG B's baby was his brightest boon and his biggest bane. In spite of his first few flops, films kept flowing into his kitty but what it also meant was increasing pressure on and greater expectations from an actor who didn't see himself as one before he started out. But with Mani Ratnam's Yuva, Revathy's Phir Milenge and now, Ram Gopal Varma's Naach, Abhishek Bachchan has finally silenced his critics.
Bachchan Junior proved he was his father's son, be it his sense of time, diction, classy dressing, spontaneous wit and warm sense of humour.
Excerpts from an interview.
Naach had opened to rave reviews, and once again, a South Indian director had proved to be lucky for you. How different do you find the approach taken by the likes of Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Varma as opposed to the others from Bollywood?
Well, Mani wasn't the first South Indian director I've worked with. My second film was directed by A. Muthu, a senior editor from the industry.
At the end of the day, a film is a film. There isn't much difference in approach towards their art. It's all about passion. People have different styles. Unique styles. I've also worked with Jeeva for Run. Yuva, Run and Phir Milenge were largely shot down South. The atmosphere is very different, primarily because people don't speak the same language. Everybody knows Hindi or English and I've picked up a couple of words in Tamil (smiles). They are immensely efficient and very professional, not to say people in Mumbai are not, but here their efficiency is always accompanied with a smile.
Were you in awe or was there extra pressure on you, when you worked with Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Varma, probably the finest directors in the country?
No. I have a slight problem where if I play to these things, I can't work. I have enough problems in front of the camera (smiles). So I don't think I should be thinking of being in awe ... I try to be a friend. I try to be informal, that's the word. Ramu and Mani are wonderful people. They are friends. They are guides. They are not people who take themselves, their personas and image very seriously. They just want to make a good film and they'll do whatever it takes. They encourage and pamper their artistes a lot. Mani and I spent evenings together having dinner informally. They just spend time to get to know their actors. The kind of experience they have and the kind of directors they are, they realise it is important to be at a one-to-one level with an actor.
Your last few films have all been radically different? Was it a conscious choice of roles?
I have always said that beggars can't be choosers. I do the work I get.
Come on, you get a plenty of offers. What made you choose these?
Mani contacted me in Mumbai when I was shooting. I had always wanted to work with Mani. Who would not want to work with Mani? I was very excited, more because it was in Hindi. One day Ramu called me after watching my film Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon. We had been wanting to work with each other for a long time but somehow we didn't get an opportunity. So I thought: Ram Gopal Varma had seen a Sooraj Barjatya film and is inspired to make a love story with me? This should be fun.
And yes, it was. He was a spontaneous director. We improvised. Most of the film was improvised. Revathy called me one day and said she's working on a film for the cause of HIV and AIDS. That's something I feel strongly about, it's a cause I work closely with. Having seen her first film, I had great respect for her. I was happy to get an opportunity to work in a film like that.
What do you think about being a director's actor, many actors today are acting directors - do you ever direct yourself?
I think every actor should be a director's actor. At the end of the day, they pull the rings, they steer you and your performance, they are the captain of the ship. I firmly believe that once you are at the set, you need to be obedient and follow the director's instructions. Twin criteria
What are the criteria for choosing your films?
They are simple. Two points. One, does the script inspire you to act and is this the story you want to tell? Two, do you have the confidence in the director?
Naach didn't have a script.
Naach, the idea bore fruit in front of us. There wasn't any so-called script. Ramu discussed the idea with me from the start. He keeps his actors clued in. He likes to involve his actors. He wants to make them more responsible. I don't want to take any credit, it was completely his vision.
Though contrasting in style, there have been plenty of comparisons between Naach and Rangeela.
I don't see how people draw parallels. It's vastly different. It was an experiment.
Are there more experiments lined up?
Every film is an experiment.
You are working again with Ram Gopal Varma in his remake of the Godfather? (Sarkar stars Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan)
Sarkar is Ramu's ode to the Godfather. It maybe just similar in theme. I would say it is how Ramu would have made the Godfather if he was given a script like that.
You play Al Pacino?
No, it's nothing like that. I play the younger son. KK plays the elder son. That's it. It's about a powerful family and the power struggle within the family. Ramu considers Godfather to be one of the greatest films made. He's a huge fan.
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