You’ve never been feted with more honours than in the year gone by. Are you surprised?
Yes, the year was full of honours — a doctorate from England’s prestigious De Montfort University, a special mention on the floor of the House of Commons for my contribution to Indian cinema, another doctorate from my alma mater, the Delhi University, the glorious Legion D’Honneur from the French government, the Man of the Year and Entertainer of the Year Awards through a countrywide poll. Accolades have always surprised me. I’m never convinced that I deserve them.
Down the years, have you I become immune to criticism? Is it a necessary evil?
Criticism is essential. Without it we would all be flying, aimlessly. It provides an alternate perspective, a viewpoint, which we in our exalted condition, seemingly blanket. Why just in professions? Criticism in personal relationships is also welcome and valuable. Constant evaluation is essential.
Yes, it hurts at times. But dealing with it is a far greater accomplishment. People remember you when you fall off a horse, but admire you when you get up and ride again. So criticism can be inspiring. That’s marvellous, isn’t it?
Has any criticism upset you? Has it altered from the time you were a newcomer? Was there a phase when you felt that it was unfair?
Giving you a specific incident would defeat the purpose. Yes, I read all film criticism religiously and yes, it has altered from the earlier years. Once, it was somewhat sedate and reserved. The times were such. Competition was not as fierce. In this pursuit, codes of conduct and ethics are not necessarily adhered to. I admire the guts of some media that does self analysis and corrective criticism. But at the end of the day, it’s a free world we live in.
But I would be lying if I were to admit that a particular criticism has not upset me. It has. And yes I shall admit that at times, I have felt that it has been unfair. But what it was and at what phase, is for me to know and deal with.
You have been tolerant to media of late. But hasn’t your private life become a hunting ground?
Tolerant? By using this word you pay me a huge compliment. I am not worthy of it. You attribute saintly qualities to me... (ha..ha)! I do believe the media has a job to do. I tell this to Abhishek. Media is the conscience of the nation, not some ogres out to devour you.
Treat your camera, your script, your character, your dialogue, your dance as your enemies. Fight them and win over them and you will win over the media.
Listen, if you enact public activities, they are no longer private. The air does not belong to me or my ancestors. Media has the democratic right to cover, to intervene, to speculate and pass opinion. You want your private life to be private? Then don’t do anything publicly or stop being a celebrity!
When you and your family I are stalked, like it was at a recent pilgrimage to Varanasi, don’t you feel like an unwilling centre of a media circus?
No, I do not. The temple is a public place of worship. Everyone has the freedom to visit it.
Recently, a TV channel had I reported about an astrologer making dire predictions about you. How do you keep your cool?
I missed this report and the astrologer on television. My director at the time mentioned it to me. He told me he was quite impressed by its content. Maintaining one’s cool is quite simple: have a glass of cold water!
You will be seen in a variety of roles from Nishabd and Sholay to Cheeni Kum and Bhootnath. Do any of them offer a challenge on the lines of Black?
Variety and huge challenges. That’s what all actors dream of. I am fortunate that even after 37 years in the business I still get an opportunity to work in exciting projects. Black was an exceptional role. Comparisons are odious. They would diminish the respect each role deserves.
Any possibility of seeing you on TV again? Weren’t you considering a Sahara serial?
None, as I speak to you, but tomorrow is another day!
You will never re-enter politics... A definitively final word on this?
(Laughs) No politics.
When did you last laugh ?
I did at your last question.
And what question would I you ask Mr Amitabh Bachchan if you were in my place?
“Mr Bachchan, would you give these same answers to another journalist? And I would appreciate a definitive, ‘No’ in response, please.”