Megastar Amitabh Bachchan has had a successful collaboration with director R. Balki with milestone films like ‘Cheeni Kum’ and ‘Paa’. Now their latest film together is the talk of the town. The megastar of the millennium shared his thoughts with Sandeep Hattangadi
What made you take up 'Shamitabh' and what is it about?
Well, it’s an unique story which has been attempted in Indian cinema for the first time. It’s not been named 'Shamitabh' for sensationalism. There are two different characters. There are some qualities which Dhanush has and I don’t have and some qualities which I possess that Dhanush doesn't. Akshara plays a journalist and she understands them and feels that if they meet they will benefit from each other. They meet and become successful but then their ego clashes within themselves.
You have sung the song Piddllee… which is very different?
Most of the times, the makers ask me to sing and if a situation arises, I sing. Even in this film the same has happened. I am not a trained singer nor am I good at it…yes (laughs) I can be called a bathroom singer..
You worked with two youngsters, so were they in awe of you?
Nothing like that, we are actors and we are working together. Dhanush is a superstar and I am in awe of him. He has worked hard and with sincerity and he’s excellent in his work. When I see these youngsters, I am very impressed by them, their work and I feel good. I get to learn a lot from them. They are excellent in their jobs and are very hard working.
You look different in the film?
Balki ,the director and I worked on many looks. My screen-character is a little eccentric and is a boozer. It was Balki’s vision. Dominique who worked on Paa and Deepak Sawant, my make-up man worked on my looks.
Do you believe that Balki has envisioned you differently?
He has given me different roles which I have not done before. I am like a blotting paper; I try to absorb as much as I can from his roles.
How much did you prepare for such roles; have you met such people?
You don’t meet such people in your everyday lives. I met a few and I have noticed the way they behave and I have tried to grasp as much as I can from them. I have seen the way they walk and dress up.
How many similarities do you see in Kamal Haasan’s daughter?
She is Kamal’s daughter and she is beautiful but she has her own identity and it’s her first film, she has a long way to go. She can say a lot without talking.
How is your bonding with Balki?
Balki and I started with advertising films and we became close and the comfort level developed. But it’s important to be friends with your director so that you can get to learn a lot from them. You can grab a lot of nuances from them. He understands me and my needs well. He knows that I feel scared when there are too many people on the sets. Often he sees to it that there are very few people on the sets. I tell them to shoot on sync sound as I feel the emotions come out better. Sometimes it becomes difficult when we shoot outdoors and we have to dub the scene.
How different is it when you are shooting with the younger lot of directors or actors today?
These days we do all the preparation at the script level itself. Earlier we didn't have these facilities. We do script reading together which is called workshops and I enjoy that. I am working on Vinod Chopra’s ‘Wazir’ and we learn about our characters how to walk or talk along with the director. With this film we have tried something new. We have recorded the entire script earlier and then we shot the film according to that.
New directors have changed the scenario how do you look at them?
The new generation has changed the taste of the audience. They have now made the audience realize that you should watch different films. They have made them realize that apart from commercial films, such films are interesting too.
What are the kinds of challenges that you look at now?
From day one I have been seeing challenges. Every role and film is a challenge for me. Every time I go in front of the camera I don’t know how to say my lines or how my facial expression is. I don’t know how I will face the camera or my role. People think I do it like the back of my hand but that is not easy.
Does your super-stardom ever come in the way of your roles?
I am no superstar. I never expect anyone to accept that. I am an ordinary human being that is making a a profession. I am an actor. People come to me just as an actor and say that they want me to act in their film. I read the script and go about my work. I want directors to challenge me with different roles now.
What do we need to value….What message does 'Shamitabh' give?
This film teaches that whatever we have we don’t value it much. When it goes away we realize its importance. My hand was dead in a bomb accident on the sets few years ago. It was a lump of flesh. The flesh was cut to unlock my fingers. My web between the thumb and the forefinger is gone. I couldn't wear my clothes and button my shirt with one hand; I can’t wear my pants or go to the toilet without help. I realized the importance of my hand then. If you have something, respect it. I give personal exam-ples because you can save yourselves. Many countries abroad have the law where you are not allowed to reveal your illness. I was told not to reveal this. People like to keep it to themselves.But I feel that it should be told so that other lives can be saved.
What do you think of mercy killing?
I had made a film with Kamal Haasan produced by S. Ramanathan which was half complete but that never got released. I think it’s too personal and depends on the patient and the family. I can’t give any comments on that.