The end of March is always a busy time for everybody. As one financial year ends and another begins, it’s time to both look back and look ahead. And actor Abhishek Bachchan has been doing just that. He’s been chalking out his new calendar, which includes reading scripts and travelling to shoot for Dhoom:3. And he’s been reflecting on the year gone by, including his role as the host of an awards show and the honour he received from the Hindustan Times at the recent Star Guild Awards, for his outstanding contribution to society.
“It was too touching,” says the actor who has now been in the film industry for 12 years. I’ve known him since he began his career, and he hasn’t changed much since he started. Abhishek is still the epitome of charm, spirit and mettle, and his sense of humour still rocks.
Last year, he made an impact with Bol Bachchan. This year we’ll see him in Dhoom:3, Karan Johar’s Dostana 2 and Bhushan Kumar’s as-yet-untitled film to be directed by Umesh Shukla.
That’s all we know; Abhishek won’t talk about other movies he may be working on.
“In my experience, jumping the gun derails a project,” he says. “Projects should be announced only when you’re good to go. I wouldn’t want to talk about movies that are in the discussion stage, and I wouldn’t want the filmmakers I am in discussions with, to talk about them either.”
So we talk about other things.
Why is there always such a long gap between your film releases? Have you become selective?
My colleagues do one film a year and they are not grilled about it. Nobody says they are selective. So why ask me this always? Please try and understand that no actor accepts all the films offered to them. You do the film that inspires you. It’s about taking up the work you think you will enjoy. Dhoom:3 was an old commitment. I started shooting for it last year. And I am eagerly looking forward to shooting for Dostana 2. I am just doing the films I want to do.
You’ve been in the industry for 12 years now. Where do you think you stand?
I don’t stand, I keep moving forward. That’s probably why I have no complaints. It’s been such a huge learning experience, professionally and personally. I have enjoyed it here and that’s the most important thing for me.
Does the fact that you’re Amitabh Bachchan’s son weigh on you?
Nothing bogs me down. I am what I am because of my father and my family. I never thought that I could be somebody else’s son. It’s a matter of huge pride for me that I am my father’s son.
Everyone is remaking Amitabh Bachchan films. When do we get to hear that you are in one of your dad’s remakes?
I am open to a remake provided we get it right. I thought about remaking one of dad’s films, but it’s a mammoth task. I would personally put the pressure on myself to deliver and make sure that it would be huge hit. I would not be able to be relaxed about the fact that the film I’d be remaking was a hit film with a hit formula, so that I could hit the bull’s eye.
If I were to do one of my dad’s films, I’d know there would be that much pressure and that much effort and expectation. Even if I applied myself fully, it would not guarantee success. You cannot pick up one of dad’s hits and say, ‘Chalo, it has a super-hit formula, and now if we apply the same, we’ll get the same result’. You can’t have that attitude. Remaking doesn’t guarantee you a hit again. I’d only do a remake if I were convinced that I could make it into a huge success.
People say your daughter Aaradhya looks a lot like you, even in terms of height.
She’s got tall parents and tall grandfathers! As for the resemblance bit, I think Aaradhya looks more like Aishwarya. She looks similar to how Aishwarya looked at that age. It’s so lovely to hear her call me Pa.
Aren’t you over-analysing the concept of success when we talk of remakes? Isn’t that making you under-confident and starting you off on the wrong foot?
I am not saying that. It’s a huge responsibility. A lot of hard work and scripting goes behind a remake. Why only dad’s films? Every film that is remade or every role that is reprised, is the result of tremendous hard work, because years have passed and times have changed, and the audience’s requirements have changed.
Do you worry that people would expect more from you because you are Amitabh Bachchan’s son?
Absolutely! The fact would remain that I am his son. A son who is remaking his dad’s film. So I would not be able to miss a step. The pressure would undoubtedly be double.
Which of your dad’s films would you want to remake and why?
I hate answering this question. When you are dealing with the kind of work dad has done, you want to do everything. He has done great work and so it’s difficult to choose.
Would you say you have had more downs in your career than ups, or vice versa?
I don’t attribute success or failure to anything. I do not sit and over-analyse things. I just work hard and believe that the rest will take care of itself.
Dhoom seem to have become synonymous with your name!
I am very excited about Dhoom. It’s a huge franchise that’s synonymous with me now, and I am doing the third instalment. Getting the chance to work with Aamir Khan is another incentive for me. Watching him is a learning experience in itself. I am very excited to work with him. He’s truly a perfectionist!
At the same time, I am very thrilled to revisit Dostana, especially with a co-star (John Abraham) who I am very fond of.
After your successful series of ad films for a mobile service provider, director Amit Sharma and you apparently planned to do a feature film together. What’s the status?
Considering our success with the ad, both Amit and I are very conscious of the fact that when we do our first film together, it should be very special. We have been working on the script. We are done with our third draft and are working very hard to wrap up the final script, put the project together and hopefully announce it soon.
What are your thoughts on turning producer and carrying forward your father’s dream through AB Corp?
The compulsion in AB Corp is creative, not financial. Luckily for us it’s a matter of choice. Here you make films because you believe in them, not because you have to run your studio. We don’t have compulsions to make five films a year, which I think is a great liberty. Our strategy is not to get stuck in a situation where, in order to cover the overheads, we have to make so many films every year. Other studios and corporate houses are committed to making a certain number of movies a year because that’s a commitment to their share holders. We don’t have such pressures. We make films which we believe in and which inspire us.
Who are your chaddi-buddies in the film industry?
I am an industry kid, born and brought up in Juhu. Half the industry lives within a kilometre of each other. Uday Chopra, Hrithik Roshan and Goldie Behl are the guys I’ve known since I was in kindergarten. When you grow up together, you’re in and out of each other’s homes every day. When we want to have coffee or breakfast together, we just go across to each other’s house.
We have heard about your paternal grandmother, Teji Bachchan, but never about your maternal grandmother, Indira Bhaduri.
She lives in Bhopal and I am close to her. I know it makes her upset that I do not speak Bengali, but I would love to learn it someday for her. It’s such a wonderful thing to be pampered by grandmoms.
I thank God every day that these are the ladies who made me the person I am today.
If there’s one piece of advice you wish to give women, what would that be?
Obviously they need to be more empowered through education. The events that have come to light in the past one year have highlighted the creepy mindset against women in our country. What kind of society is it where fear rules the minds of our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters when they step out? I have been brought up and taught to believe in gender equality, I have grown up surrounded by women, so I appreciate them.
Can you throw some light on your association with Magic Bus, the NGO for underprivileged kids?
Aishwarya introduced me to it. A college friend of hers works there. What I like about their programme is that it makes people responsible. Every child who goes through the programme must later become a mentor too.
Is it true that the name of your family firm, ABCL, was changed to AB Corp due to astrology-related issues?
ABCL went through a huge financial setback in the late ’90s and my father worked single-handedly to rectify it. At that point, he wanted to change things around. He wanted to rechristen the company. That’s why it is AB Corp today. No, there’s no astrology involved. It was our thought and decision. When you are dealing with the kind of work dad has done, you want to do everything. He has done great work and so it’s difficult to choose.
How close are you to your mother’s Bengali culture?
As close as I can be. But I never tried speaking Bengali, which is ma’s mother tongue. I was sent abroad to study when I was very young. And at home, we speak Hindi and English. So I haven’t got an opportunity to learn it. I also love Bengali cuisine. There are so many wonderful dishes. I love fish and all of the maacher dishes are delicious.
What has been the role of the women in your life?
I am lucky to be enjoying time with both my grandmothers. My father’s mother and mother’s mother are still alive. Then I have my mother, my sister (Shweta), wife (Aishwarya) and now I have a daughter (Aaradhya). I am lucky to have got the opportunity to learn from, absorb from and spend time with all of them. The contribution of a woman in a man’s life is something you can never quantify. It’s a huge contribution!
You are perceived as one of the few actors who do not belong to a coterie. Do you consciously stay away from this kind of thing?
I don’t believe that it exists, so there is nothing to stay away from. At the end of the day, people choose their friends based on what they want to do at that point of time. Name one actor who has particularly worked with only one director. We are actors and want to work with everyone. The same applies to filmmakers as well.
So you mean coteries do not exist?
I don’t like the word coterie. Just because people are friendly doesn’t make them part of a camp. You mean two actors cannot go out for dinner together? That’s so unfair. Everyone has their own life and the industry is not a corporate house, but a big family. Everyone knows everyone, and they hang out with everyone. If Shah Rukh Khan is having a celebration at his house and he invites me, how does it make me part of his camp? And if he comes to my house on Diwali, does it make him part of my camp? I don’t believe in this at all.
Coteries exist in Bollywood, right? There are the Shah Rukh Khan-Karan Johar-Hrithik Roshan and Ajay Devgn-Rohit Shetty-Salman Khan families for instance. That’s a creative choice. That’s got nothing to do with the fact that they are friends. When Karan writes his films, he knows that so-and-so is ideal for the film, and accordingly approaches him. It’s about the script and its demand. Nobody writes movies for friends. People write a film because they want to make a film, and they cast actors based on who they feel is the best choice for that character.