face to face With over a decade of films behind him, and standing on the cusp of a promising eleventh year in his career, Abhishek Bachchan admits that actors don't have power over the audience
“W ho told you that? They're all lying,” says Abhishek Bachchan with mock seriousness before breaking into a grin, as he sinks into a chair. As an ice-breaker in an interview, the statement holds out much promise.
Abhishek was in Bangalore to endorse his April 1 release “Game”, a whodunit that in its promos has been touted as a not-seen-before film of the genre. And the statement is Abhishek's response to what's so “different” about this flick. It's reassuring to have a candid admission: “To plug all our films we say it all the time…I believe there are only about 10 stories on earth…”
“‘Game' is a whodunit. A murder takes place and there are four suspects, all with a motive. How different that is, I'm not so sure. But that's the beauty of it — the process of telling that story excitingly is the challenge for the director,” he says, tossing the ball into debutant director Abhinay Deo's court. “The cat will be out of the bag after the first show. I've seen it about three times and it's the way it unfolds that is interesting.”
Mystery is a magnet
As a genre, mysteries are something he's always followed, says Abhishek, listing Sherlock Holmes, and Agatha Christie's Poirot as favourites. “‘Murder on the Orient Express', ‘Death on The Nile' are films I enjoyed growing up with. So also the film ‘Clue' based on the game Cluedo.”
But which of the films have influenced his growing up years, apart from his father's? “When I was a kid, I only watched dad's films,” he smiles. “Other's films I started watching only in my late teens. Because I was away in boarding school in Europe, and didn't really get to see films then.” He then talks fondly of his childhood years spent amidst other star children in the film-industry residential area of Bombay's Juhu. “If any of us had a birthday, say Ekta's or Tushar's (Jeetendra's children), we would all do a car pool and do a film trial. I've seen Jeetu uncle's films like ‘Paatal Bhairavi' and ‘Samrat'.”
Press further for more names of films that influenced his early life, and after some mmm-ing Abhishek finally, and almost reluctantly, continues: “Also obviously classics like ‘Mughal-e-Azam', ‘Mother India', ‘Ganga Jamuna' that have fashioned anyone who's associated with the film industry,” he says, listing among other influences Shammi Kapoor, Sanjay Khan, Sunny Deol right down to the reigning Khans (and everyone else in between), and talking fondly of friends who later turned directors themselves.
The actor is in his eleventh year in the Hindi film industry, has tasted much success and much failure, and after a low trough in 2010, is poised on the brink of a promising 2011, with at least four releases planned. In fact, April sees another of his films “Dum Maro Dum”, released.
“Ravan”, Mani Ratnam's film that brought him some scathing criticism last year has, one supposes, left an indelible mark on his career. How does he view the movie? “Just as I see all the rest of my films. As a milestone,” is the hackneyed initial response. “But it has taught me a lot — that as actors we don't have power over the audience. We can only ensure that the process of making the film is a great memory and a learning process. It's a film I'm proud of… and you learn where you think you went wrong.”
Abhishek says that if he didn't think a film was important for him, he simply wouldn't do it. Any new film should push you forward, he stresses. The actor who turned producer with “Paa” is producing AB Corp's next film starring Amitabh Bachchan titled “Bbuddah”, to be directed by Telugu filmmaker Puri Jagannath. He says he would pick acting any day because production is “tough”.
Many small-budget non-star films are making it big in the Hindi film scene standing up against multi-crore productions, so what according to him translates into a film “making it big”? Abhishek admits that it boils down to business. “If a film made for five crore does a business of six crore, it's a hit. We work in a commercial medium. I'm a producer as well. We make a film for people to enjoy so we owe it to them to give them their ticket's worth….”