Amitabh Bachchan at 66 is still a bundle of energy. And that’s what we found out when we caught up with him on his forthcoming film The Last Lear, directed by Rituparno Ghosh and the Unforgettable Tour.
The Last Lear is true literary work in the sense that it is a take on Utpal Dutt's play Aajker Shah Jahan… what is the first thing that struck you in the script?
The script came later. It was the joy of working with Ritu first. We had been contemplating for a long time to work together and finally it happened. The script was challenging. It was to be shot in English, something I had not done since my days of theatre in Kolkata. It involved a stage artist in a film in a film. And I loved the way Ritu was treating it. The fact that it was an adaptation of Utpal Da’s work was an added attraction. Utpal Da and I shared a very warm relationship; he being in my very first film. No not Saat Hindustani, Mrinal Da’s Bhuvan Shome, where I gave my voice.
How difficult is it to adapt a play for screen?
This is something you should ask Ritu. He wrote it and wrote it well. Some considerations for cinema have to be incorporated for an adaptation and I believe that was done quite well.
Going through the synopsis, I believe it is a high emotionally charged role… your take…
I do not know what you mean by that. It is an interesting character and yes it has its moments. I guess any interesting character would envelope such ingredients.
Have you seen the play Sir?
Sir tell me honestly aren't the roles that you are getting over the last few years more and more difficult an challenging then the ones you played before...Now I am simply talking in terms of the depth factor and the audience that you are catering to...
Yes they are.
We get to see Preity Zinta and Arjun Rampal in The Last Lear... two actors of the mainstream genre...how did they shape up?
They have both shaped up rather well. They are consummate artists and given an opportunity have always delivered. In this film they have lived up to the expectations of the role assigned to them.
Now on a different note, the million-dollar question is: Is The Unforgettable Tour a big success?
Why would you want to put a million dollars on a question that has been decimated and devalued to a most predictable category !! Questioning and demeaning the viability of any of our achievements has been the media mantra for decades.
The fact that we have been disproving that time and again is pertinent justification in giving your query no value at all. However, my generosity coerces me to condescendingly inform you that the Unforgettable Tour has been an unimaginable and massive success.
The final stamp for which has been the show on the 24th August at the O2 Arena, the most prestigious venue of London, from where we have just received formal information and acclaim that this is only the 3rd time in the history of the venue that they have had a packed sold out event. The other two being for Madonna and the rock band U2. So a first for an Indian event. This of course is in addition to every other venue we performed in - the USA, Canada and Trinidad - to sold out stadiums. The reactions from the audiences have been phenomenal and singular – “they had never ever seen a show like this, and perhaps never will” !! Proud to have achieved that on foreign soil. And very proud to be an Indian.
You fell ill during the course of the trip...is the load taking its toll now Sir?
Yes I did. But am fine now.
Abhishek has quite a number of releases this year...how would you analyse his growth as an actor?
Yes. As an actor he has been challenged with diverse roles and has come through with flying colours. The fact that the media continuously derides and denies him his due, signifies the ruthless bias it has against him and indeed our family. That not withstanding I feel he works with dedication and I see him bringing improvement to his craft with each progressing day. That is healthy.
Last but not the least… at 66, he is still happening...what next?
Who is the ‘he’ you question? I am 66 and if you are referring to me then I would like to know what you mean by ‘happening’? If it means that I am still alive then yes I am still obviously alive. If it means that I am am still happening in films, then yes I do have work in some films yet. ‘Happening’ could obviously not be a referral to success, because you have decided to deny that to us. So it does not really matter ‘what is next’ in your eyes. And quite frankly, we couldn’t care. That’s the least I could do in the situation!!