In search of truth

Namrata Joshi talks to Amitabh Bachchan about his love for Kolkata and his role as an ordinary man looking for answers in Te3n

Updated - September 16, 2016 10:00 am IST

Published - June 02, 2016 07:49 am IST

What do you talk to him about that Amitabh Bachchan hasn’t already spoken on? Kolkata? Fresh from the success of Piku last year, his new release Te3n also takes him back to the City of Joy, a city that he seems to share a great equation with. “That’s because I spent eight years living and working there. I started my earnings from there, got my first job there. You obviously get very close,” he says. A reason he speaks about it effusively: about the passionate people and their boundless love for him. “I have often said that the kind of affection you get from people of Kolkata you don’t get from any other place in the world. I tell my friends in the industry that any time they feel depressed they should just go to Kolkata. It will perk them up.”

But Kolkata was also suitable for the narrative, the story, situation and circumstances portrayed in Te3n . Initially, producer Sujoy Ghosh wanted to shoot it in Goa because of the Christian backdrop of the film, but shifted to Kolkata because of some problem in getting permissions. “It was most wonderful to be in Kolkata,” recollects Bachchan, who spent 35 to 40 days at a stretch shooting in the city.

Te3n ’s maker Ribhu Dasgupta has directed Bachchan’s TV serial Yuddh so he was acquainted with his work. He had also worked with producer Sujoy Ghosh in Aladin and sang a song for his Kahaani . “We had a lot of joint discussions, Sujoy, Ribhu and myself before we went on to the sets.”

We decide to go specific on another aspect of Te3n : the genre. The elements of a thriller, the suspense, the mystery, are quite evident in the trailer. For an actor who has done and been appreciated in all kinds of roles what makes a thriller like this special? “The story, the way it is going to be narrated, the shot-taking, how the director keeps up the intrigue right till the end — that’s the motto of a thriller,” says Bachchan, “And ours is no different.”

In recent times, Bachchan’s Wazir was like a cat-n-mouse game. Aks , Aankhein , Teen Patti have also been in a similar zone. However, he feels that the modus operandi of the character he plays in Te3n is different; the entire approach of the film is distinct within the broader arc of a thriller. “Yes, you are in search of clues, you are in search of individuals, you are in search of revenge, you are in search of redemption…” he says. But there is more.

He plays an old man who has retired, who is weak and not just physically but temperamentally as well. He is a very ordinary, middle-class Anglo-Bengali. There is an untoward incident involving his granddaughter and it’s his desire to search and find out how it all happened which forms the crux of the film. “I don’t think he is someone who is looking for revenge. He is not any kind of vigilante. It’s disturbing for him not to know what happened and what were the circumstances under which he lost her,” says Bachchan. In a nutshell he is the Satyanveshi — the truth-seeker — a title often used for detective Byomkesh Bakshi.

There have been thrillers on the Bachchan CV in the past as well: Parwana , Gehri Chaal , Bandhe Haath , Majboor and many more. From those times to now where has the change set in?

“In the pattern of telling the story, in making it visually different and appealing. It’s not so much in your face now; you will be required to put your thinking cap on. There could be question marks on many people’s minds after seeing a film: that is an interesting aspect of viewing a film. It may coerce you to go and see a film again,” he says.

He puts down the highs of watching a thriller: “If the main character is going through a certain process of investigation or search then audience also gets into the same frame of mind. Why did he do this? How did it all happen? To find those clues which may have been very surreptitiously put in and overlooked, the fleeting references that may keep you wanting to see a film again and again.” Is he himself a mystery/suspense buff? Who is not? He finds the [more recent] Sherlock Holmes TV series “amazing”, Alfred Hitchcock for him is “marvellous”.

The conversation then shifts gears. He talks about the persistent documentation, how millions of mobile phones follow you when you go out. “You may not necessarily like it because you are a public figure and don’t want to be disturbed. But in many ways you are being documented and that is such an important thing,” he says. He regrets there has not been as much documentation of the earlier generation. “How wonderful it would have been to know their point of view, why they made a film in a particular manner, what went through the minds of the actors when they were performing a particular scene.”

According to him we just see a film, appreciate it but have never gone into any research or documentation. Which is what he intends to do set right with Te3n . Instead of the usual marketing and PR, the people involved with the film will also sit together and discuss why they did it, how they went about it and record it for TV: actors on what was going in their mind when they gave a shot, the cameraman on the use of lights, the director on editing of a sequence or the placement of the camera.

“It would be educative when shown on TV. The audience will get educated in the craft of cinema and hopefully appreciate our work better,” he says.

It’s a model replicable even for a hardcore commercial film, he thinks, because it too has a unique grammar of its own. “We used to laugh at Manmohan Desai. The opening scene of Amar Akbar Anthony was a medical ridicule. But he did it so well.” Up next is Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Pink produced by Shoojit Sarcar. It is about three girls involved in a violent situation, about circumstances that lead up to a rape. “It’s about how they fight back with the help of a retired lawyer,” says Bachchan. A lawyer played by, who else but Bachchan.

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