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A tete-a-tete with the Big B

By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Post his birthday, Amitabh Bachchan looks back on the legion of honours that were bestowed on him in the past few days.

A rather subdued birthday for you this year
Subdued in what sense? Birthdays are just another day. I've never looked at them as something unusual. It was the day I was born, and in that respect it's a special day. My mother is in hospital and a dear friend Lalit Suri passed away. In fact I was at the funeral the day after my birthday. But I don't want to categorize it as subdued.

So was it a day well spent?
I was with my mother and the rest of my family during most of the day. I liked that. Then some friends dropped by for dinner.

Is family the most important component of your life?
That happens to be the case with everyone, doesn't it? You've doubts about that?

Did you ever think what life would be like 'When You're 64'?
Just because the Beatles sang a popular song about being 64, it isn't a benchmark. 64 is just an age. One looks at it as another year in one's life, nothing more nothing less.

What a birthday gift France has given you!
I'm quite surprised....and honoured. I'm grateful to the French government. And I'm thankful to the film industry and all my colleagues. I'm not worthy of such recognition...It's most undeserving. It's my job to do whatever I'm asked. It's up to institutions to award and reward. Whatever is given to me, I respect it. But if such honours don't come my way I wouldn't brood about it.

When and how will you receive the award?
Well, the representative from the French embassy has come to me and given me a letter from their Ambassador informing me that the President of France has asked him to convey that the Legion has been given to me. Now a time and venue for receiving the award have to be set.

You're the second Indian after Satyajit Ray to get the Legion. Does that mean you're seen as the torchbearer of Indian cinema abroad?
I think it's a sign of the acceptance of our escapist commercial mainstream cinema abroad. The mainstream cinema was ostracized and ridiculed. But now there's a huge amount of acceptance. That's quite obvious from the fact that I see an almost 50: 50 ratio of Indians and non-Indian whenever our films are screened at festivals and other events abroad. I was talking to someone who has just returned from Australia. He confirmed that there was a huge turn-out of non-Indians for Indian films. It's a really healthy trend.

Speaking of Satyajit Ray you've been associated with him in the past...
Yes I did a commentary for his Hindi film Shatraj Ke Khiladi. Manikda (Ray) was known to Jaya. She worked with him in her first film Mahanagar. Obviously we'd meet quite often. We went to his house several times, seen him at work.

How did Satyajit Ray pick THE Voice (yours) when it wasn't that prevalent ?
Far too much is made of THE voice. Manikda wanted to have my commentary and someone suggested my name.

You're now considered the most famous Indian in the world. How is that for fame?
Firstly it's an unwarranted responsibility. I don't believe it's the truth. However people have the right to look at me however they want. If I'm ever asked to represent the film industry or the country I'd gladly. I hope I can do a good job of it.

Aren't you already doing a good job of it?
I don't know. This is for others to assess. I'm doing my job to the best of my abilities. Yes, I'd like to see our country make inroads into the world. I'd like the world to look at India with more admiration and compassion. Each one of us is an ambassador to India. And it's our duty to further the cause of our motherland.

How do you rationalize the kind of success that has come your way?
I don't! I feel I'm leading a normal life.

You don't think your success is phenomenal?
I don't. I'm not a party to all the wonderful honours and recognitions that come my way. These are devised by institutions. I just go to work every morning like any human-being and come back to be with the family in the evening. What I do with my work is in my hands. What happens outside my orbit of work isn't in my hands. I am in control of my creativity-at least I hope I am. The rest are peripherals. I may be a victim of some of the things that happen to me from the outside. But I'm certainly not their architect.

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