Prakash Jha’s described Amitabh Bachchan as Bhopal’s damaad (son-in-law) and the actor who has been there filming Jha’s Aarakshan admits that his sasural (in-laws’ place) has been looking after its jamai raja (son-in-law) really well. “The locals are so understanding and cooperative. We never had any problems shooting at various locations in and around the city. The student community in particular has been most disciplined and well behaved,” he says, adding that impressed with the attitude of the staff and the collegians, he volunteered to spend an evening with them. “I recited some of my father’s (Harivansh Rai Bachchan) poems to a learned and appreciative audience. I have been to Bhopal off and on since marrying Jaya but never for a film shoot. But making Aarakshan has been an enjoyable experience.”
He’s particularly thrilled that his in-laws have been sending across home-cooked food to the sets for him. “It’s predominantly Bengali and a delight,” he beams. The subject of the film revolves around a burning issue that once sparked off Mandal fires—the government’s reservation policy with him playing the principal of a college. Isn’t he apprehensive about running into problems with political factions and the minority communities? “You’re predetermining the subject of the film in assuming that since the title demotes reservation, it deals with this sensitive topic. There is more to the story than just that, and it is best that you see the film first before arriving at any conclusion,” he reprimands. “For me personally, Aarakshan is a noble effort in that it propagates the message that equal opportunity should be provided to all to excel.”The film reunites Bachchan with two talented actors—Manoj Bajpayee and Saif Ali Khan—with whom he’s worked in Aks (2001) and Eklavyya (2007). This is also his first outing with Deepika Padukone who plays his daughter in the film. "Manoj, Saif and Deepika are accomplished artistes and my joy in working with them is greater than theirs," he says modestly.
Point out that after the super success of Raajneeti expectations from Aarakshan have doubled, and Bajpayee has said that they’ve shifted the responsibility to Bachchan’s rock steady shoulders, confident that he can get them another hit. That draws a laughs, “Ha, ha, Manoj has a very valued sense of humor. Artistes do not make hit films. It’s the story, director and concept that work together to appeal to a discerning audience. If actors could predict the fate of a film, then the film of every successful artiste would be a box office bonanza. But that’s not how it is.” Pointing out that expectations are dangerous, particularly if predetermined, he asserts that Aarakshan is a sincere effort by everyone involved with the film: “My shoulders were never and never will be ‘rock steady’. It is the combined strength of many shoulders that go into the making of a film.”