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He is a living legend who has been equally successful in his second innings in Bollywood, as he was during his 'angry-young-man' days. The last time you heard him was probably in his latest flick Sarkar Raj. And now, we bring you the excerpts of an interview run on the episode of Frankly Speaking with Arnab Goswami on Times Now, wherein Amitabh talks about Sarkar Raj, his family, his blog and other things close to his heart.
It's wonderful to have you and each time when we meet, we talk about the last time... the last few months before that and this year has also been... if you look back at the last six months to eight months, it's been a very eventful period in your life ... highs and lows...
Well this is a question I am often asked as the starting point of an interview…and I have always responded by saying that something or the other keeps happening in my life… so to look at it as being eventful or uneventful is really now a cliched statement. But... I would love to know what you think is eventful and what is not, so that I can respond to that.
I will…Let's look forward. Let's talk about Sarkar Raj... with the three of you together. Again, I must say it is a very predictable start to a question. How was it Mr. Bachchan?
Yeah... Well the fact that there are three members of the family working together. It is always a joy being with Abhishek and Aishwarya in the same frame and being with... people we are all very comfortable with. For Aishwarya it was the first time working with Ram Gopal Varma, but Abhishek and I have worked in many of his projects and I find RGV to be a very intelligent maker. Somebody that has always been able to provoke an artiste through his technology to the subjects and the scenes that he writes and the way he shoots them into giving some of their best performances. By best performance I don't mean that I would like to rate A against B, C or D. But I think he can make or provide you with an environment just by his technology or by the moment he is going to create in that film for you to be excited enough to do something different or to look at it in a different manner and that I think is challenging for everyone of us. And particularly so for Abhishek and me because we have worked together in two of his projects. But every time he has something new and something fresh for us. So as an actor...yes I enjoy being with him. I enjoy being on his sets. I love the way he structures his story and how he wants to project it across in the final moments.
I think in the past... this is a sequel of the last movie...And the last movie had this strong and brooding intensity, which I am sure comes naturally to you
No, not necessarily. I am not a brooder by habit. But the character demanded and the situations demanded that. And in many respects this is not a sequel to Sarkar. It is the same story of the same family and some of the circumstances that happened in this family... (But) It's just another day so to say or several days. But it's not like this is where it ended and this is now where it's going to start. No. It's a reconstruction of some more events that happened in this very powerful family.
And there is a very strong comparison that has been drawn to the Thackerays.
Would you ever deny it?
It's not got anything to do with Bal Saheb Thackeray or his family at all.
But there is an obvious comparison sir that is being drawn.
Yeah but then there can be obvious comparisons to so many characters that we make in our films but ...it is obvious that these comparisons will be made because it is Maharashtra and it is a Maharashtrian family. It is a powerful political or a semi-political family and these obvious comparisons come up. But there is no deliberate or no intent of making any comparisons with Bal Saheb or his family.
One of the most intense scenes in the movie… in my judgement... and I may be wrong as I am reacting only as a viewer... was the dinner table sequence in the past. That's where all the tension and the interplay was playing out… I think there was the resistance, there was the father, and there was the tension ...
Yeah, Yeah well I think ... I really would like to go back to why you find that and how we actually thought about that. Many years ago, when I was talking to RGV and we were considering an idea of how we should work and what we should do together... and Sarkarwas the first film that I ever did with him. I was always very excited and interested in the concept of power politics, palace politics, and personal life. In every powerful family, in every powerful political family, in every powerful industrial family, there is always this business of palace politics where if there are more than one in the family that are either involved in the industry or politics or in a movie industry… there is this central fulcrum which is the dominant personality. He is the one that created the business, created the politics, that created the industry or created the brand and because of him there is an entire world, there is an entire industry functioning and that is surviving of him, his beliefs, his thoughts, or his dictate. And there are many followers. But what happens when this powerful fulcrum operates within his own house? Does he carry with him the burden or the advantage of his power and how does he execute personal relationships amongst his near and dear ones. So if he were to step outside his house and find millions of people screaming and shouting and waving to him, does he… when he comes home expect a similar kind of treatment. Would he also when he raised his hand, expect his father or his mother, his son, his daughter to give him that same amount of adoration? And I thought that that was a very interesting aspect for a story and I believe that this does happen in most houses
What do you think Mr. Bachchan. Do you think that the same is expected?
That is what I think the film should deal about.
I think Mr. Bachchan that you have put it across brilliantly
So if there is a political decision to be taken by this very powerful fulcrum and there is an altercation in the house, which is purely domestic in nature. It could be a disagreement on the dining table with the son, with a wife or the daughter, which puts this central fulcrum or figure in some kind of a mental state. It could perhaps be annoyance or antagonistic and therefore the next minute if he were to step out of the house into a public meeting and take a major decision, which could affect the lives of millions of people in a nation, would that be antagonism or the mental state that he is in reflect to the decision that he is about to take? And I feel that I must be an extremely difficult task for no matter who it is; to be able to go out without being affected by what has just happened within the premises of his internal family. So I used to give every weak example to RGV. I used to say… I gave my own example... I am setting out to go to the shooting and I have a comedy sequence, I have a song and dance with laughter and gaiety and a lot of fun and I am supposed to have a smile on my face, I am supposed to be happy and gay... And then whilst I am driving, somebody comes and hits my car and it upsets me to see my car damaged. And whilst I am leaving my house, I am preparing myself mentally to go into this atmosphere of laughter and gaiety, I have suddenly got to contend with this damage to my car and it puts me in a bad mood. Now how do I switch from this bad mood to this happy moment?
Would you be able to do that. Let me be more specific. I would just want to understand…
Yeah because I am an actor, I would be expected to do that. But I would like to say and that is what the query was to RGV... that how wonderful it would be, if we were to devise a story where there is this one powerful family and because of the internal palace politics that happened, does it reflect on some of the external decisions that he has to make.
In fact, I think it is difficult to make an absolute switch. But I find it very interesting what you said because it's quite strange isn't it Mr. Bachchan. In this country we have so many political dynasties and yet somehow filmmakers have desisted on making movies a) about our political dynasties b) about a subject then or alluding about it directly … may be they are scared or may be filmmakers don't want to cross the lines. Because if this had been ...
That's a very interesting question that you have raised. I have admired Oliver Stone who made JFK because I believe that to be one of his most brilliant works, who actually went behind the assassination of JFK and put across a theory, which when I came out of the theatre I actually believed that it was true; though the formal version is totally opposite of that. But I think that's what freedom of expression and its interpretation truly is.
And I think that as a democratic nation, we need to exercise it more often.
How do you think we would react, if there was a movie made about the assassination of a sitting PM and in your own view.
The decision makers would think it wouldn't go down too well. But I would never ever put the common or its intelligence below any kind of power because I find that they are the most intelligent people in the country.
At the end of the day, it's all about pushing the envelope and yes you are right. I think we are a bit too presumptuous about the way we think. The common people would react and even that has got to do with politics... if you were to play a political figure, Indian or international, present or past Mr. Bachchan, who do you think you would identify most with or who do you think will present you with the biggest challenge?
I really don't know. I wish RGV could make it because I believe that he would absolutely have the right capacity and the temperament to do a film like this. I do not know whom I would be able to play but I would be very open to accepting or entertaining any thought by any that would bring a project like this. I myself have toyed with the idea several times, talked to various producers on some of my thoughts on making a political subject but they have all sort of… you know... Drifted away from it saying it would be too sensitive or they are too wary about doing something like this, which is a shame really. But I would not insist because I do realize that there are ... there are pockets, areas, groups of people who may object to it or may not like it.
And also Mr. Bachchan there is so much of a focus on you… in terms of where you stand politically… in terms of are you close to this political formation or that things can be read …
Yes the obvious inferences then get drawn which are totally unnecessary
Too much has been written about it in the past...And in recent times also. Never seems to leave you Mr. Bachchan... you being close to this political party and that or...
Yeah I am unable. I really am to answer this question because I don't see why that should happen. I am as political as anyone. I have not said anything political or been on any political platform since I stated that I would never enter politics again. I have friends who are affiliated and who are politicians and are close to people; my wife is a member of the Rajya Sabha but I have no such intentions and I have never ever indulged in any political activity. Yes, inferences are drawn and I have arguments to refute that... It's for people to accept it or not.
We can go around in circles on that I must say. Earlier you have been frank about that. So we'll move away from that. In this particular movie, Aishwarya is not a part of the family, she is a businesswoman and there are some competing interests, she is an ambitious businesswoman. So what is the interplay with the family?
Well, she is heading a corporate body that is coming in from overseas with a power project and she wants that to be put up in the state of Maharashtra. She brings in the plans, the opportunities, the circumstances, the politics that happens, what the Nagre family has to say in this, what the son that has to say... all this and the complexities of that is what makes up Sarkar Raj
Was it a bigger challenge because you and Abhishek worked together in the last movies?
Yeah… this is something you should ask Aishwarya really but I found her to be very compatible to the role, very competent with her performance. She didn't take too much time in getting in to the role. We have seen Aishwarya as an extremely beautiful face doing some very intricate, beautiful moments in films other than what she is doing in Sarkar Raj. Here she is a very hard-nerved corporate body. Glamour is really far-removed from her continents. It was very surprising and interesting for me to see her like that because we have seen her either as a princess or a leading lady with glamour (being) the primary quotient in the character. But here she was very normal, very hard-nerved, very corporate body and business-like. And she fitted in beautifully,
We had pictures of the 3 of you... Or was it the four of you walking down to Siddhi Vinayak. Is it a regular feature before your big projects when you walk down the streets of Mumbai? Can you block out the people there because you must be having your own thoughts. People would see you there, they would respond, they would want to feel you, touch you, talk to you. How does Amitabh Bachchan walk through the streets of Mumbai?
Yes…to Siddhi Vinayak. Not necessarily...I think that somewhere you have to, you have to give in to some of the things that are going to be associated with you as a public figure. You have to accept that. Sometimes that's what you have been working for all your life. You want people to come and notice you, to see you, to wave to you, say nice things to you, when they shall when away as you age and your popularity gets defeated, you will miss it. It's prominently noticeable in my own career because I have had the good fortune to be there for 4 decades. And I can see the enthusiasm and the excitement among masses is not there... That was there in the 70's and in the 80's, 90's. But this is a very natural process.
Mr. Bachchan , Pritish Nandy wrote a column in the Times of India responding to the comments of a young filmmaker who said that Bachchan is past and prime and he should stop making movies, he is experimenting too much… it's not working out. And the only word that I can use is ... that it was a violent defense of Amitabh Bachchan. And he said that the things he does are between his movies and his experimentation is his strength. Now I find it interesting. I want to talk about your role in Bhoothnath.
At my age you know, it's actually quite helpful because you get an opportunity to play different kinds of roles. The onus and the responsibility of the success of the film which used to rest on my shoulders as leading man some years ago is not there any more. You know there is another leading man who is younger and whom people are fond of.
Who is the leading man of Bhoothnath? It was you...
Well...It could be the kid it could be anybody. But on some films I maintain that central character not the typical leading man... I would say the central character was Bhoothnath himself. I am happy that this happening and I am happy that there are stories written with the central character in mid whether it is Black or it's Bhoothnath or whether it is Nishabd. But by and large this doesn't happen every day. So when I get these opportunities, I also get these inputs on playing different roles and that's very helpful for me as an actor.
In Bhoothnath…because many of our viewers tonight will remember... so many would have watched the movie, one felt like the critics say; the second part went over the top. The first part was lovable. They all said the sequence between you appearing first before the child was lovable he was nice and warm. And the second part they say went way over the top. With the shraad sequence. What do you think Mr. Bachchan?
Well I think that the 2nd part was the most important part. I think that film is actually made from there backwards. The reason for Bhoothnath to be the way he is, is the fact that his son has not done his shraad. And therefore his aatma (spirit)...Whenever there is death or a demise in the family, when we all pay our respects and condolences... what do we say? Bhagwan unki aatma ko shanti de or we say may his soul rest in peace. I mean this is a very often-repeated refrain why are we saying that and this is has come up in our discussions when we were discussing the story. And so I said cannot that be the reason that this gentleman Kailash Nath is hovering in this house because nobody has performed his shraad and I thought that that was the most important part.
What if somebody says... that for kids today the second part of the movie is avoidable? What would you respond to that?
I can only narrate you... well there have been hundreds of well wishers on my blog and many journalists feel that these are just fans who will only deliberately say nice things to you...
I don't agree with that
And I respect that but I can only narrate you 2 incidents. On a blog I read a story which said, "I took my little son to the movies and throughout the movie, he was very happy and enjoying himself. But when you left and disappeared because of the shraad, he started crying uncontrollably and I had to sober him down. And then when he came out and I explained to him the reason what had transpired in the movie... after a long silence as we were walking home, he stretched out his hand an held my fingers and said "Papa when I grow up, I am never going to leave you."
I thought that that was a very poignant moment and for the child to understand that. The other incident happened with Vishal and Shekhar, the music directors of the film. Shekhar's little daughter who is all of 3 years old went and saw the film and came home and saw a photograph of mine lying in Shekhar's room which I had actually presented him and she pulled it off the wall and took it by her bedside. And when Shekhar asked her why have you done this, she said... he is my angel; which is direct connect with what transpired in the film. So I feel that if two children in this entire world and this entire hemisphere were able to connect that well and so poignantly with the story and the film… I think it is enough of an achievement as far I as an actor is concerned or as far as our filmmakers are concerned.
Last question do you write your own blogs Mr. Bachchan? Because it's been suggested that they are so elaborate, so detailed that Mr. Bachchan would not have the time. He is getting it written by somebody else out there.
Yes I do. Well... I can invite you to come and sit with me while I write them but that would be very uninspirational I am afraid (laughs) but I do write my own blogs yes…
Why do you write them?
I think it would be cheating in my part if I did not do that and I feel very strongly about that. I feel that it is a commitment that I have made to my fans somewhere inside of me. I may well not write it everyday but I feel that that there is a sense of commitment that I must do it everyday. And now I get responses when they don't find my blog when they open the net at the appointed hour… because sometimes I get delayed at work or I sit up late and write it or start writing it and finish it early morning. So that is very encouraging. I write it because I found a medium through which I could keep in touch with my fans on a one-to-one basis. I never had this medium before. The only other medium I had was the post or the odd meeting on the street or the odd photograph or the autograph I signed when I went in to the crowd. In the post, the letters and the responses are still somewhat impersonal. You read what somebody has written and then you respond and then you send it off. But this is immediate. I write something and I get responses within seconds. It's almost like you sitting here and me talking to you. It's not all praise and it's not all gentlemanly language. There is a lot of abuse.
Do you respond to those?
Yes I do.
Even to those who abuse? What is the worst thing that has been written about you?
Absolutely. In fact, there is a system in the medium, wherein a moderator moderates the whole thing. The server has the ability to moderate and if there is abuse in it, it can actually delete it and not allow it to come in front of my eyes. But I have very strongly told that I do not want a moderator and let everything that is written come through to me and I will decide what I will accept and not accept. I have never not accepted anything. I have entertained the abuse and I have responded to them in my own gentlemanly way… Or whatever I deemed fit. I feel that abuse comes out of hatred. I feel that I have not done anything that could invite hatred. I believe that there are misconceptions in the minds of people who write abuse. I believe that there have been accusations which have been wrongly portrayed due to whatever reasons, their belief or whatever input they get from the media or from the outside world and they are absolutely justified in doing so. I think that I am justified too in giving them a response for clearing my name. I have given this example many times and I think I spoke to you about it also. But really the point that I am trying to make is…I read a wonderful quote from a very senior, wise old man who is I think an American who said that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. It is the price of your freedom as almost an invigilator that will invigilate on the current events. On the characters and personalities that you view and talk to and what you put out in the universe and it is my duty as an invigilator to see that what you say and what you put out does have the scrutiny of some kind of vigilance. I feel it is my right as a citizen to be able to question you just as you have right to question me. And if there is misinformation, If there is misguidance and if there is wrong accusation, I want to correct it. Because if feel that in my correcting, I am not going against you or trying to take revenge but I am merely exercising my right to make you perhaps a better invigilator. That's what I am doing and I get this opportunity to do so in the blog and it is very rewarding
Ram Gopal Varma is determined to make a sequel of Aag. Is that a good idea in your view? Do you regret having done the last movie and would you do the next one?
I don't regret anything that I do. I have my reservations and I expressed them to Ram Gopal Varma. But at the end of the day I will go with what his decision is. And I must say that I did enjoy playing the character that I did. I found myself working that extra bit to do something which perhaps had not been seen before. And I have liked that. But obviously the film was panned and I would not want to be associated if Ram Gopal Varma wants to make another version of it because I think once is enough and I have done it twice.
We have seen the three of you together in Ram Gopal Varma's Sarkar Raj. When will we see the four of you together?
That would be very exciting. There is… there are many projects that people come and talk to us about where they want all the four of us. If there is something credible because its easy to convince three members of the is family. It's very difficult to convince Jaya because she is extremely selective and very very cautious of what she does. If she is not convinced in her mind about something and if it doesn't come as strongly… it could be something very irrelevant even. But if it doesn't come across strongly in her mind… she would not associate with it. So that's the hurdle and the only hurdle… in this expedition.