He remains an enigma, even at 68, effortlessly experimenting with roles and films, which actors half his age would think twice to take up. In a well-guarded interview (he records all his interviews), actor Amitabh Bachchan talks about life as a working sexagenarian and playing a 12-year-old son to his son Abhishek Bachchan.
How do you manage to surprise your fans with every role in every film? Which of your upcoming releases — Paa, Aladin, Teen Patti — seemed more challenging?
As an actor, I would like to believe that all the roles I do are challenging. But to point out one, Paa has certainly been very trying. And simply because of the nature of my role. It’s a 12-year-old gradually ageing to about 65. In order to play this role, it was essential to get the body language of such a person and the way he would talk and behave. A lot of help came from my grandchildren. But the prosthetic was the most intricate aspect of this role. It would take us four-and-a-half hours to put and one-and-a half hour everyday to remove it. So it would take about six hours to get the make up right. And then I had to be almost immovable; I couldn’t sit or stand and would barely be able to breathe. But the end result is marvelous. Looking at myself, most of the times, I don’t think it’s me at all. It’s got nothing to do with the
performance, but the way it has been put together.
So you’re satisfied with the film?
Immensely. Balki has got the best of the people, including an Oscar winning make-up artiste, to meticulously work on the look. The film is about a disease, where the sufferer’s face undergoes a major change. His head swells up and so do the eyes. Though we couldn’t do much with my eyes, since that meant working on my eyeballs, which could have been dangerous. But to push this for kind of a character, one needs a creative genius like Balki. He has certainly done a great job.
Were there any apprehensions about playing son to Abhishek?
It’s always joyous to share frame with Abhishek. But initially there were apprehensions as to why him. But Balki had a peculiar point about casting. And he was right in having so.
The people you work with now are really young. They, of course, derive a lot from you, but what is it that you derive from them?
From youngsters… I derive energy. Their desire to excel, their confidence, and the conviction they exude. I always like to work on the sets where the average age is 25, and I at 68, try to bring myself to their level of competence. And it’s not just films... even in journalism. I’ve grown up with people who started off as juniors, assistants and journalists and then went on to become directors and editors. You literally live with them and see them grow and move up. But now, all of a sudden there’s an influx of an entirely new generation. I often discuss this with Jaya. They’re so competitive and so keen to work. It surprises me, to see their zeal to excel.
Even at 68, it is almost assumed that you can do anything. Is there anything you say ‘no’ to?
(Smiles) I don’t have many opportunities to say ‘no’. I take whatever comes my way. Trust me, at this age of my career, the options are very limited. Yes, some of them were challenging like Black, Bhootnath, Baghban, Aladin and Teen Patti, which offered me to do something different. So, I did them.
If you get a genie for a day, what would you wish for?
(Interrupts... with a smile) Please don’t ask this question. You will be the 47th person. And I have been giving all politically correct answers like world peace and all…