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It was one of those rare sunny afternoons in London. The wind whipped my hair with the ferocity. Speaking of jet lags, my head ached with the dull throb of the morning. All this and it was a day when Abhishek Bachchan had to call me up on Ram Gopal Varma's request for a special interview post Sarkar Raj. I wait impatiently for a call from Mumbai. It was 1500 hrs to be precise and my mobile rings. "Hi, can I speak to Mr. Patel please?" I answer, "Yes, speaking." The young husky voice replied, "Hi, How are you? This is Abhishek Bachchan; Ramu just gave me your number and asked me to speak with you. But can I call you in half an hour as I'm just going in for a shot?" Without further ado and running out of words, I answered, "Alright that's fine." The devil on my right shoulder began whispering - If Abhishek doesn't call you in half an hour, he will not call today, just go home and do not wait for his call - and he went on and on like that. The angel on my other shoulder didn't say much, but what he did say, spoke volumes. Abhishek...Abhishek...Abhishek. I smelled the coffee for one last time, packed my bag and stared at my watch in amusement. It was 1730 hrs, time to leave the office. So as I pushed open the door, the devil once again reminded me - Didn't I say, he won't call. Within couple of minutes, I boarded the train back home and then the unthinkable happens. My phone beeps, the text message reads - Can I call up now? - It was Abhishek Bachchan. And just as the screechy doors of the metropolitan line train were about to shut, I rushed out in time and replied back to A.B.Junior saying - Yes. In less than thirty seconds the display screen on my phone reads - Abhishek Bachchan calling. The moment I have been waiting for since a month arrives. I looked, paused, looked again, and answered my phone. Then the fun began and some serious conversation took place, all on the noisy railway platform in Uxbridge.
The film is really doing well in the U.K. Is it right in saying that the Bachchan's have unanimously taken the power in the overseas with Sarkar Raj?
Well, I don't know if that could be a statement but yes, the film is doing well and we're very excited about that. I think from the genre of film that it is, it's almost path breaking that the film should be recording the kind of collections that it has, which is very encouraging and means that the audiences in the U.K. are willing to watch this kind of cinema as well.
It all started from Refugee, then after a long wait came Yuva, Guru, Sarkar and now Sarkar Raj. All the films I have mentioned have got you critical acclaim. But does that mean, the more grim, intense and ferocious side of you is shown, the better you have performed and excelled?
That's actually for you'll to decide but I'd also like to believe that movies like Bunty Aur Babli and Bluffmaster also went on to become successful which were lighter in nature than the films you just mentioned. I think at the end of the day it's the film and its characters which appeal to you and not any one particular genre.
Both Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag and Sarkar Raj have proved that how unpredictable Ramu can get as a director. Is that a good sign for an actor like you who has worked with him before and who might work with him again?
Of course, yes. You know my greatest attraction to him as a director is that he is unpredictable and that he is forever trying to do something different and he throws a lot of challenges at his actors and as an actor you really enjoy being challenged. He is always accused of attempting the same kind of cinema, which I disagree with. I think it's very exciting because at the end of the day the fate of the film at the box office is not in our hands. The only thing we can do is make films, which we believe in.
What would you like to say or convey to some of the critics who've blatantly abused Sarkar Raj the film on a much personal level than a professional one? Isn't this taking it too far?
I believe that everybody has the right to say whatever they want - right or wrong - I've always held critics in very high esteem because as far as an actor is concerned, they give you a ready reference as to what the audience might be feeling. If they don't agree with you or they don't agree with the film, I don't see that's any reason to get personal. But I respect what they say and if I think that the points they've made are valid, I'll definitely incorporate that the next time around. It doesn't really affect me to be very honest that at the end of the day, one critic can make or break a film.
Your death in the film has come as a surprise to many. Was death inevitable?
I don't think so. I just think that initially, when we worked on the script of Sarkar Raj, Shankar Nagre was going to reign throughout the film. But about a month or two into the scripting, Ramu came up with this brilliant idea that Shankar Nagre's character would achieve a different level of respectability in the audiences' eyes, if he dies for the cause he believed in. Not to say that we made him into a martyr but we all felt that it would give him a certain amount of lift in terms of his character if we took this route. And at the end of the day, all that is left is Subhash Nagre and Chikoo.
As I've written in my review that Ramu has left so much space by the end of the film that he might be able to start work on the 'Sarkar Trilogy'. On a personal level, what do you think?
Yeah. I think it'll be interesting. Ramu is a very exciting director and he will do justice to the third part too. As you said that Ramu has left it open-ended and any time he wants to reprise the film, the most exciting part would be to see dad play Subhash Nagre again with the same sheer intensity as he did in both the earlier outings. I really think he was outstanding inSarkar and in Sarkar Raj he was just awesome. He has managed to outdo the performance he has done in Sarkar and I genuinely feel that this was one of his best performances ever. I'd be more than happy for a fan of this series and of the franchise to see it carry on with 'Sarkar Trilogy'.
The Bachchans are getting busier day by day. The IIFA's, then Sarkar Raj, then the Sarkar Raj road rally followed up by your Unforgettable Tour. Busy people are happy people, as they say. What say?
(Laughs) Well, the Sarkar Raj rally is happening within India. We've already been to Gurgaon and Delhi. We will be going in a couple of days to other cities within India to promote the film and mostly interact with the audiences and the fans. We had a wonderful experience in Gurgaon with the local media and our fans. It was an overwhelming experience to see that kind of love and outpouring that came from the people. It's a unique idea and we're looking forward to it. And then, mid July, we embark on the 'Unforgettable World Tour' which actually ends up at the end of August in London. That'll be a lot of fun. And we are happy. That answers your second part of the question.
Today completes one week of the films release in the U.K and Sarkar Raj has already grossed more than quarter of a million pounds here. It also marks Ramu's highest ever collections in the U.K too. Any comments?
I am happy for Ramu and the entire team of Sarkar Raj. But it's not only U.K., the collections in certain parts of India are huge too. America's collection is equally good like in the U.K, if not, may be slightly more because it is a larger market. But at the end of the day what counts is that the thriller genre is getting accepted in the U.K, which traditionally, never used to work. U.K audiences tend to favor the more Yash Raj brand of cinema, which is a family entertainer with a lot of song and dance and culture. Very honestly, we the team of Sarkar Raj never expected the film to do much in the overseas market because of these statistics. The figures you've given me comes as a pleasant surprise that it's doing exceeding business in the U.K.
Sarkar and Sarkar Raj once again proved that the Hindi films aren't just about song and dance routine. Do you think more and more films should be made keeping in mind the success of such films?
Most definitely. When Sarkar was first made, it was a songless film. So was Black, for that matter, and they both went on to be very successful films. It just proved that the audience is willing to see films without songs and now Sarkar Raj has proved it again. And that's three in a row for dad too. We can sing to it (laughs).
Sarkar Raj is filled with sepia tones, black and grey shades and haunting background score. The film has continued from where it ended. Don't you think Ramu should've experimented a bit this time around?
I definitely feel that Sarkar Raj picks up and continues its style that Ramu had implied duringSarkar and this was something that needed to be constant in the film which is the way in which you tell the story and the technique used to convey the story. I hope when the trilogy is made, it still doesn't shift its focus.
Working together with the family for the first time would've been a great experience for you. But does it also bring in enough power in your performance when you see your dad and wife opposite you in the same frame?
Yes. Once the camera rolls, you're a professional and that is exactly how you should be. As actors, we can't allow our inter-personal relations to come in the way of our acting. But the minute Ramu said - Cut it - we were family again and it was great fun. Both dad and Aishwarya are actors with whom I've worked in the past and have enjoyed working with, and before Aishwarya and me were together, as a couple, we've done many films. Infact, she is one co-artist I've done maximum films with. So when you are facing Indian Film Industry's finest, you need to have the power to face them.
What did you learn from Sarkar Raj, which you did not from Sarkar?
There is so much to take away from a film that it becomes that much more an important and a memorable experience. I took away a lot from the film. First and foremost is that RGV Ki Aag released during the making of Sarkar Raj and I really saw Ramu go through this entire journey of emotions after his film failed, which we all know, and I really learnt the strengths of character that Ram Gopal Varma as a director has. You need to know that this was the same man who was lambasted for making such a film. But I really felt that the media and many others really went after him unfairly. I applaud Ramu for the way he handled that situation and the strength and the conviction with which he continued to believe in Sarkar Raj and didn't panic and still made the film, which he set out to make. It speaks volumes for Ramu as a director and as a person.
From your natural acting in Sarkar we will now see you possess some super-natural powers in Drona.
This is a tag that the media has put on because they have nothing else to write over here besides calling it a film with super natural powers. But it's not a super hero film, contrary to popular belief; it is a modern day fantasy in which I play a King. There is a lot of magic in the film but that doesn't make it super natural. I wouldn't compare it to Krishh too. I am really excited aboutDrona because I've never attempted something like this before. Infact, something like Drona has never been made in the history of Indian cinema. Therefore, we all are working very hard on it and looking forward for it.
Any message you'd like to convey to people who haven't yet watched Sarkar Raj?
Obviously the first message will be - Please go watch it (laughs). Sarkar Raj is a brilliant film in all aspects and credit goes to Ram Gopal Varma. Secondly, fantastic performances from Dad and Aishwarya and if you're my fan... do I have to say anything further? (Laughs)
Whom would you pick to play Chikoo in the Sarkar Raj trilogy?
It'll be nice to see Hrithik Roshan play the role of Chikoo and more interesting will be the Ram Gopal Varma combination with Hrithik. That'll be an exciting watch.