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It's Kolkata calling for Amitabh Bachchan

The actor tells Diganta Guha that he would like to meet up with old pals and have phuchka-paani at Victoria Memorial.

india Updated: Mar 15, 2007 12:35 IST

It is around 9.20 pm on Tuesday evening. Almost a week after Amitabh Bachchan’s arrival in Kolkata, we have been invited for a chat with the biggest star in India.



We are guided to a suite at the ITC Sonar Bangla where we find him relaxing on a sofa. His two mobile phones lie next to him. The tiredness on his face is visible but he welcomes us with a cordial, “Hi, how are you?”



Bachchan has been shooting in and around Kolkata for Rituparno Ghosh’s

The Last Lear.

He’s expected to be here till March 20 and has had a hectic schedule so far. How does he relax after a day’s work, we ask.



“I do interviews,” he says with a laugh and then adds, “I don’t get much time but the little that I get is devoted to catching up with family.”



Family first


The confession does not take us by surprise. Bachchan’s concern about his family is for all to see. Right now, it is his mother’s health that worries him.



“She is not doing too well. She has been hospitalised for almost six months. Now that I am here I am totally concerned about what’s going on in Mumbai,” says Bachchan with a grim face.



It reminds us of the time he had set up an Intensive Care Unit at his Mumbai bungalow when his father, the late Harivanshrai Bachchan, was seriously ill. If family is important to him, so are friends.



“A friend is someone whom you can confide in, who understands you, trusts you, and is almost a part of your body,” says Bachchan candidly.



Kolkata calling

Bachchan is back in Kolkata for a long stint after a gap of more than 25 years. He is touched by the love and affection he has got during his stay. The actor, who lived in Kolkata for almost seven years before he left for Mumbai, has a few associations he would like to renew.



“I would like to visit all the different places that I have lived in when I was in Kolkata, meet up with old pals and have

phuchka-paani

at Victoria Memorial,” he says.



Quite a bit of

The Last Lear

is being shot at Bharat Lakshmi Studio. Has it been any different from shooting in Mumbai?



“The studios here are no different from studios in Mumbai except that technology and locations of studios there have improved a lot. Almost all the facilities that are needed for filmmaking are available here though the look or designing may not be as modern. As long as the facilities are there, I am okay with it,” he says.



The new phase


Sarkar, Nishabd, Ram Gopal Varma Ke Sholay

and

The Last Lear

—Bachchan is playing atypical characters. Is he finally letting his creative side rule?



“Actors need a clean slate — and this I am quoting from Ritu’s film. I am happy that directors want to consider me in characters, which are not defined in the typical escapist manner. As an actor you have to come with a clear mind. If I were to keep doing the routine stuff it would stunt my growth. Actors need to be challenged — the need of stimulation, of wanting to explore and invent is what creativity is about,” he says.



And then he sighs, “Earlier on in my career, the oft-repeated criticism used to be that I do the same kind of roles. Now, when I get the opportunity to do something different, the accusation is that I am deliberately choosing offbeat roles. Somewhere, I think I shall personally have to take that call.”



Doing films with directors like Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair or roles like Gabbar Singh in

Ram Gopal Varma’s Sholay

is the result of his search for new stimulation.



“It is a challenge for any actor to do villainous roles or play a patriarch or someone who is not following the norms of the society in the traditional sense,” he says.



Still a dreamer

At 64, his busy schedule would be the envy of any young actor. Why this unlimited quantum of work when most of his contemporaries are leading much more relaxed lives?



We ask him the reason and the reply is a modest, “I don’t know. I think there is a great amount of misconception of treating this surname like an adverb and I do not like it. I am part of a huge train whose engine is cinema and the imagery, beauty and the wondrousness of what cinema is all about. When that succeeds, all of us riding on the train succeed.”



As if to drive the point home, he adds, “I am a normal person.”



But a normal person isn’t usually considered for the post of the President of the country, isn’t it?



“That was a joke. No, I am not qualified for it and I feel very touched and honoured that people talk like this. But it is beyond me.”



It might seem to others that he has achieved everything he could possibly want. But the Star of the Millennium still has dreams.



“It would be a terrible day for an artist not to have any dreams and just be satisfied with the way things are going on. I hope that I continue working in films. Cinema is a wonderful profession for me and I can’t see myself doing anything else. I hope all those dreams and desires come through this medium,” he says eloquently.



It’s time for us to leave. It shouldn’t be.