Amitabh Bachchan in a still from the film Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag. Video: Sholay revisited?
Well, I think every year has its positives and negatives. It started with my son announcing his decision to get married. Then I got the Legion of Honour from the French government, then the marriage (of Abhishek), and Aishwarya as the bahu in the house. Now the National award for Black and another doctorate from Leeds University... such wonderful things happening.
We won't discuss the bad things.
Why not? They're the flip side of the good and therefore essential. I don't look at the lows as bad things. They're a part of life. Yes, there has been political victimisation, court cases and so on.
What is it like to have a daughter-in-law in the house?
It's fantastic! I feel I've got back my daughter in the house.
Has Aishwarya in some ways taken Shweta's place in your life?
No one can Shweta's place in my life. She's my daughter. But, yes, my bahu is like another daughter in the house. We're all extremely happy. And I hope she's happy too.<b1>
Did it feel different working with Aishwarya after the marriage in Sarkar Raj?
Not at all! We were all playing roles when the camera was switched on. Once it was off we were a family again.
Ram Gopal Varma keeps threatening us with several projects featuring you and Abhishek.
Yeah, he wants to do Time Machine with Abhishek and me. I'm comfortable working with Ramu. So why not another film? I haven't done a sci-fi before.
Sarkar Raj is your first sequel.
Oh yeah! The inter-relations haven't changed, though some new characters have been introduced. But the house, the ambience, the wife, sons and daughters-in-law and the working relations are all the same. I do hope it lives up to the expectations raised by Sarkar.
Any fear of audiences recoiling from your villainous aspirations in Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag?
I looked upon it as a challenge. As an actor I've the liberty to try as many characterisations and apply my craft to as many characters as possible. Earlier, the accusation against me was why I was only doing leading men's roles? Now when I'm doing something different I'm questioned for playing a villain. <b2>
Do you think you are now liberated of a specific image?
Certainly. Because of my age I'm able to do character roles. And because I do character roles I was able to play a villain in Ramu's film. Because of the heroic roles I've done before, audiences may feel I should not be playing a villain. I respect that opinion. But as an actor it's very important for me to do something different.
Anthony Hopkins, who's one of my favourite actors and who generally plays sympathetic roles, plays a sadistic killer in Hannibal. But we admire his craft. So the audience needs to be more tolerant of my need to experiment. At 65 these are the kind of roles I'm getting. If people want to see me doing such unexpected roles, I'm fine. Otherwise I'm out of job.
You've had the singular honour of being in both the versions of Sholay.
Why just me? Sachin is also in both the versions. He plays my brother in the new one.
The thought of playing a role already done to everlasting popularity by Amjad Khan... did that daunt you?
I don't know why so much is being made out this. That someone decided to remake it is a great compliment to the original. Nobody questions filmmakers who do so many varied interpretations of Shakespeare's Othello, Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet. When Vishal Bharadwaj makes Maqbool or Omkara he's praised for how well he has adapted Shakespeare. Baz Luhrmann has done a very contemporary version of "Romeo & Juliet". Then why not Ramu for re-interpreting Sholay.
Why haven't you and Ramesh Sippy worked together lately?
He hasn't asked me. He hasn't been directing films.
Do you miss working with those directors?
Of course! How can you forget your past? I don't. I love my past.