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There was much tension in the air on location in Bhopal where Prakash Jha is shooting with Amitabh Bachchan for the first time. At the very start of the shooting, Big B, legendary for his rhetorical skills, had to deliver a rousing speech on the issue of job reservations.
Being a politically volatile subject, Bachchan wanted to take no chances with the content. Apparently, Prakash Jha and his co-writer Anjum Rajabali had to carefully toothcomb the content to avoid anything controversial.
Says a source, "It was a lengthy monologue that Mr. Bachchan had to deliver on the theme of Aarakshan (reservation). The entire film hinges on that speech. Mr. Bachchan wanted it to be hard hitting but not controversial. Prakash Jha has been studying the reservation issue from its inception.. It is a volatile political issue and Prakash didn't want Mr. Bachchan to get embroiled in any unnecessary debates."
The mega-star worked extra hours over the speech to give it a non-political but hard-hitting edge. Apparently, Big B delivered the monologue only when he was convinced that the content was completely apolitical.
Neck deep in the shooting, Prakash Jha admits that the Big B's opening speech was a tricky affair. "Bachchan Saab told me it kept him awake late in the night pacing up and down in his hotel room. 'Tumne meri neend kharaab kar di,' he grumbled good-naturedly. When he finally delivered the speech, I knew I was working with a colossal legend."
Prakash can't get over his awe of Big B. "This is the first time I'm working with him. I can't come to terms with his extraordinary level of professionalism."
While Jha, like the Big B, is an early riser, Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone have a tough time dragging themselves out of bed early-morning.
Says Jha appreciatively, "If I ask him to be on location at 11 am, he is there fully ready at 10.45 am. Even when I'm shooting with Saif and Deepika, he insists on being on the set, just to remain in character. They don't make actors like him any more."
So impressed is Prakash Jha by the Big B that he plans to cast him again in his next film. "Once you work with him, you are hopelessly addicted to an unmatchable level of excellence and professionalism," says the director.