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A day with Bachchans

Sonal Kalra gives us a first-hand insight into the beautiful home and life that Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan have built together.

entertainment Updated: May 25, 2009 19:12 IST
Sonal Kalra

Jaya-Big-BThey say power corrupts…and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, they haven’t heard of a man called Amitabh Bachchan. Here’s someone who has seen power at a level and of a magnitude where the term ceases to hold any meaning…at least for him. His significant half Jaya, a legend in her own right, is an even starker picture of graceful humility. So when invited to meet this ‘powerful’ couple in their private space, any notions I may have carried of seeing anything other than elegant simplicity, was entirely my problem and not theirs.

Clad in a crisp white cotton kurta pyjama, Mr Bachchan enters the room on dot at the appointed time, so exact that even the clock wouldn’t have had time to utter a sigh of relief after the hard work of striking eight. (I later discover that his efficient assistant Rosie had duly SMSed, informing that “Mr Bachchan has started for the room you’re waiting in, would reach in two minutes”).

Mrs Bachchan follows, wearing a gorgeous off-white suit, accessorised only with a motherly smile that lights up her face. “Amit ji, zara sarakiye nah”, she says softly. He obliges by making room for her on the large sofa in the dimly lit room.

Power profile

Amitabh Bachchan, with his trademark baritone voice and towering personality, is unarguably the most successful Indian film star ever.



Padma Bhushan Mr Bachchan is the only actor to give at least one super hit movie every year for 15 consecutive years. The first Asian actor to have a wax statue at Madam Tussauds museum in London, he is a recipient of a record three National Awards and 12 Filmfare awards, besides France’s highest civilian honour, the Knight of the Legion of Honour.



Jaya Bachchan is an actor par excellence and a Member of the Indian Parliament as well as a senior member of the Samajwadi Party. Padma Shri Mrs Bachchan is a recipient of seven Filmfare awards and numerous national and international accolades for her memorable acting career.
Power? what’s that?


I start by telling them why they indisputably were our obvious choice to flag off this series on the most powerful couples in Bollywood and get a surprised reaction. “We don’t even understand the term ‘power’. This is a media created word. We are just professionals doing our job,” snaps Mr Bachchan while stealing a glance at the Blackberries at his side. She is a little more forthcoming, “I too would like to say something here. I feel there is power, but probably not in the sense that you mean. I derive my power from him, he derives his power from me, and we together derive it from our kids. But this power is within us, we don’t believe in any other kind of power.”

It’s couple-time
Okay, they may be uncomfortable with the powerful tag but they can’t deny that, with his heavy acting schedule and her active participation in politics, they are amongst the busiest of the lot. Do they manage any couple-time?

“We don’t get much time as we are always travelling… I’m going on outdoors, she goes to Delhi… we do feel each other’s absence in our daily lives. But whenever we are in town, we make it a point to spend a lot of time with each other.”

With son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya in town — an unusual and happy occurrence for this busy family — dad has made plans for the evening. “As soon as we are done with this interview, I’m going to take everyone out for dinner as we’ve got together after a very long time,” he says. “Also, we appreciate each other’s professional liabilities and commitments.

That is equally symbolic of being together. Anyway today’s communication devices are such that even if we are in different parts of the world, we are in touch. Now with this ping Blackberry, (he points to his phones), it’s easier.” Do they ‘ping’ each other during the day? The reply comes with a smile. “Oh yes, sometimes just to say I’m stuck in traffic,” he says. “Sometimes to say, ‘I feel like having chaat. Prepare it for dinner,” she adds, while calling on the domestic help to serve some soup.

That gives me a few moments to look around the room, tastefully done up in shades of beige, while trying to digest the surreal feeling of being in the same space as someone 100 million people in the world, perhaps more, look up to.


Marriage Mantra

As a couple who many in the country idolise, their marriage advice is, “No two people are the same but the idea of marriage is to come together and understand each other. It’s about compassion and harmony. Also, respect is very important. You have to give each other space. They strongly believe in something deep that poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan wrote, ‘Man ka ho to achhcha, na ho toh zyada achcha’ (if you get something to your heart’s desire, it’s good, if you don’t, it’s even better).’

The ‘I don’t’ list

I begin to ask about their favourite conversation topic over a cup of tea, but am interrupted, almost reprimanded, with a startling admission. “I don’t take tea, I don’t take coffee, I don’t take chocolates,” he pauses to say “Write it fast or you’ll miss out the list,” and carries on. “I don't take alcohol, I don’t smoke, I don’t take paan, I don’t take rice, I don’t take Indian or western sweets, I don’t take non-veg, I don’t take Coke or Pepsi. Sab chhod diye.” Phew !! Tempted to ask if he enjoys anything at all, I curb the urge while Jaya

ji

, noticing my jaw drop, laughs, “Well, the rest of us in the family make up for it by eating everything that he doesn’t.”

She defends his short and snappy answers and explains it with a loving grudge of her own. “Actually the thing is that he doesn’t talk much. His excuse is, “Mere sir mein dard hai, aaj maine bahut zyada baat kiya.” “Bhai kya karein yeh sach hai. I do get a headache if I talk too much,” he snaps back and she immediately comes to my rescue. “Beta, don’t let him intimidate you. Please ask your questions, he’s like that only. I’ve lived with him for 35 years and am used to it. Now I get worried if he talks a lot,” she laughs, “But when we are alone, we watch the news, or a movie, or talk about children and grandchildren.”

Thirty-five years of togetherness is a long time. If one of them is upset, does the other come to know without telling ? “Yeah, yeah, immediately,” he says while she elaborates, “Yes, but he’s better at keeping a bad mood under wraps. If I am upset, it immediately shows on my face.”

Did you know?

* Amitabh and Jaya married on June 3, 1973, according to Bengali rituals

* The couple first met at the Film and Television Institute of India at Pune

u When Amitabh met with the near-fatal Coolie accident, Jaya would walk 6 km barefoot daily from Breach Candy Hospital to the famed Siddhi Vinayak Temple, praying for him.

* For his 60th birthday, Jaya compiled a 400-page coffee table book with 800 photos called To Be or Not To Be

Family first


The Bachchans are known to be a close knit family. I mention Abhi-Ash and daughter Shweta and their faces brighten. "We are fortunate to have children who respect our needs and we in turn respect theirs," he says with obvious pride. She mentions the grandchildren and says, "Even though I was a strict mother myself, now that I’m a grandmother, I can’t ever see Shweta’s kids cry. Meri haalat kharaab ho jati hai."

So what’s the one thing in him that endears him to her and what annoys her. “Now that’s a tough one,” she says, “I’ve lived with him longer than I’ve lived with anyone else. My love for him makes me forget anything that irritates me. What I like is that he’s a very kind and gentle person. Maybe what annoys me a little is his tendency of not sharing his thoughts. I wish I could help him out every time he’s going through an emotionally rough time.”

Just before we sign off, I ask them if there’s any couple they both have looked upto and pat comes the reply from him in a second, “my parents”. She nods, smilingly. The love shows.

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