Even the toothbrush he uses makes news. Amitabh Bachchan, the most moni- tored, adored and also constantly preyed upon actor in the files of Indian cinema, has retained his equanimity, cool and of course, nuclear-strong star power. A mega-interview with Khalid Mohamed
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. Somebody somewhere thinks otherwise. So, I’m truly grateful and acknowledge these wonderful gifts with humility.
It seems to run in the family..
The family tradition continues — my father, the most decorated, Jaya and me, distantly behind, and hopefully, the son will follow. God has been kind, my parents’ prayers have been with me. The unconditional love of the people has been overwhelming. I couldn't have asked for more.
|Amitabh Bachchan's next films include Ram Gopal Varma's Sholay and Nishabd.|
No artist can truly digest criticism. Down the years, have you become immune to criticism? Is it a necessary evil or essential in all professions?
Criticism is essential. Without it we would all be flying, aimlessly, knowing not where to go! It provides an alternate perspective, a viewpoint, which we in our exalted condition, seemingly blanket.
And why just in professions? Criticism even in personal and intimate relationships is most welcome and valuable.
It helps evaluation constantly that’s essential for any progress. Yes, criticism is hurtful at times. But dealing with it and accepting 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?
To be able to use a negative situation for positive ends. So, I thank critics and value criticism. I digest criticism, I’m never immune to it. There is some hidden goodness in them which we must all search. If after searching you disagree with it, get out there and disprove it!
Has any piece of criticism really upset you? Do you read film criticism? Has it altered from the time you were a newcomer? Was there a phase when you felt that the criticism 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. Media was not the vast and vibrant entity it is today. Competition was not as fierce. How to attract eyeballs and ears to your channel, to your paper, to your station is a phenomenal exercise in this country. The drive to accomplish that coerces managements to devise new methods and techniques.
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. How fortunate we are that we do. It’s absolutely joyous to have a platform for free expression and it’s equally joyous to have the freedom to disagree with it.
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. I would not want that to become public property.
And this I would never ever advocate to others. We are all un-alike individuals and have our own peculiar philosophies. I have mine and this is what I want to do with it.
Of late, you have been tolerant of the media, saying it is performing its job. But hasn't your private life become a hunting ground, especially for the electronic media?
Tolerant? By using this word you pay me huge compliment and put me on a pedestal. I am not worthy of it. You attribute saintly qualities to me as if I am some divinity..(ha..ha)! But seriously, I do believe that the media has a job to do, and so it must. I tell this to Abhishek, while trying to educate him on this aspect. I’m proud that despite his early steps in this profession, he has diligently followed what we as a family strongly believe in. That the media is the conscience of the nation.
Credibility and truth is their creed, a rare quality in today’s times. Just as you wish others to respect your job, respect theirs as well. They’re not some giant ogres out to devour you. They are not your enemies. Treat your camera, your script, your character in it, your dialogue, your dance as your enemies. Fight them and win over them and you will win over the media.