His abdominal surgery took place in February. Since then, numerous reports about his frail physical condition have surfaced, making Amitabh Bachchan's health a talking point all across; so much so that filmmakers, who have projects lined-up with him, also began worrying. The veteran's silence on the subject only aggravated the situation and subsequent speculation. So about a month ago, we contacted him for an interview, which was immediately confirmed. But plans kept changing. "No interviews now," we were told for some time.
However, on Friday, a day after Rajesh Khanna was cremated, Bachchan sprang a surprise. The email interview had finally arrived. Unfortunately, due to the recent tragedy, queries related to Kaka had to be dropped. The Phenomenon's death has been a blow for the industry; especially friends like Bachchan. Nonetheless, Big B, who is going to be back in action with Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) this September, tells us all in an exclusive interview.
There has been a lot of speculation about your health. Some reports claim that you didn't take up films that require extensive dates due to your condition. How are you now?
I am well. I had kept time free for my surgeries and shall start work on the films soon. First, would be KBC, of course.
Do you feel you need to slow down a bit now?
That is a relative term. What is slow to others may not apply to me, and vice versa. If I am able to do what is asked of me, and I feel I can do it (then) I shall do it.
Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna in Anand
People say you only know one way of life - that is to work! Do you agree?
Disagree! I work and play equally!
Your international debut could have been far bigger than The Great Gatsby. Are you happy with it? Do you regret not making your Hollywood debut with other offers long ago?
Firstly, I do not consider myself Hollywood material. My participation in The Great Gatsby is a friendly gesture for (director) Baz Luhrmann - it's less than a blink-and-miss appearance. I have done it (for) free, without any remuneration. I have no regrets about not working in Hollywood earlier. If there is an opportunity in the future, and I feel comfortable taking it up, then I shall consider it of course.
Amitabh Bachchan in a still from The Great Gatsby
KBC, as a programme, with you as its host, still rules supreme on TV. What do you attribute the game show's success to?
KBC runs in almost 80 other countries and has been a success. Its basic format and its intrinsic philosophy is the reason it does well everywhere. I have been associated with it from the year 2000. We are now in 2012. Twelve years is a very long time for its continued success. I can only pray that it remains so, in the future as well.
You're one of the rarest actors of our time who multitasks even at this age and can easily beat youngsters at it. Is it something that you've developed over a period or were you always a motivated individual? Who had this indomitable spirit, your mom or your dad?
These assessments that you make of me are yours. I do not consider or endorse them. I just do what I feel like doing. There is no attempt to deliberately wonder about age, work or multitasking. And yes, every child or human (being) will bear the benefits of his or her genes. I would not like to consider myself any different.
People look up to you as their hero, a symbol of triumph against several odds. What are the few traits in life that you feel are important?
I am no hero and certainly not a symbol of triumph against several odds. I am definite about one thing only - that I am not qualified with any traits that individuals could imbibe.
Many of your films have been remade today. Several veterans usually feel classics shouldn't be tampered with. What's your opinion?
I cannot say whether any of my films have been classics. (But) I do feel remakes, of earlier films that I have been involved in, would not have my patronage - despite the fact that I conceded on one count to RGV and Sholay (Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag; 2007). There could be other remakes in the pipeline, but I would not be in a position to remark about them.
What is that one classic Hollywood role that you always wanted to do?
There are many, (it's) difficult to put my finger on it just yet.
From your tweets it's apparent that you're constantly learning new stuff to connect with your fans. Please share a few things that you've learnt and also unlearnt in the process.
Most of it is technical and something that even I am unable to explain. Suffice (it) to say that conversing with well-wishers on the Internet is a novel and exciting experience.
Does any new release of yours hold the same excitement as connecting with your Twitter fans?
I am unable to understand your question. But if it means that the excitement of a new release and the excitement of connecting with Twitter is the same, then the answer is yes.
You've tweeted about being lazy, lackadaisical, lethargic, listless, lukewarm, laidback and lax. Do you actually practise these downbeats?
What's the status of Amit Roy's film with Abhishek Bachchan?
I think you have the name wrong - it's not Amit Roy, it is Amit Sharma that you refer to I think, the one who has done the Idea ads, with Abhishek. Yes, we have had several meetings and scripting is in progress. There is an Amit Roy too, who was Ram Gopal Varma's DoP (Director of Photography) but who has (now) shifted from there and (is) keen to make and direct his own films. But I have not heard of any project from him yet.