Two constants in life are death and income tax, says Amitabh Bachchan, who is just back from the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards in Dubai.
Amitabh brushes aside the flurry of tax controversies before he left by saying: "There is no controversy, no weight on my mind, no unnecessary badgering and no annoyance from any quarter."
He clarifies that he was not, and would never be, a part of the "so called demonstrations" by fans who took to the street on the tax issue.
Talking about IIFA, he says the event is not just about awards. "It's about an effort to give Indian cinema the respectability and dignity it so richly deserves, internationally and to the rest of the world."
In an interview, Amitabh describes the just concluded IIFA awards as unique "because I happened to be there" -- he missed most of the awards' ceremonies this year because of his illness. The Bollywood icon also says that winning an award in the presence of his grandchildren was the "best experience".
Q: You left in a flurry of tax controversies. Did they weigh on your mind at IIFA or take away the enjoyment?
A: There is no controversy, no weight on my mind, no unnecessary badgering and no annoyance from any quarter. Remember always. Two things are a constant in life -- death and income tax! The department has a job to do and they do it efficiently. Income tax is an exemplary organisation and I have the greatest respect for it, as does the rest of the nation.
Q: Your fans took to the streets protesting against your tax badgering?
A: I am not, and shall never be, a part of any of the so-called demonstrations and reactions that one witnessed during this issue. Fans have peculiar ways of expressing their affection. They can build temples in your name and take to the streets as well. We have no control over them. Not being allowed to go and see a particular film repeatedly provokes a fan, quite unnecessarily, to commit suicide. There are all kinds of people.
I believe I am an honest law-abiding citizen of this country. Last year, I was declared by the department as the highest individual tax payer in the country. I pay my taxes on time, I respond to all their queries on time and if, as per law, I have the liberty to question a demand made by them, I question them on time.
I visit the department on occasion, because the notice by them desires personal presence. And even if I have an option of representation, I like to go and get first-hand information. Nobody is going to stop me from doing that. And the department is not so stupid to get influenced by my presence. The law of the land has no space for exceptions.
Q: How would you compare the sixth year at IIFA with the other years?
A: It has been wonderful from inception. The cause is good and healthy for Indian cinema, for the host country and for the millions of viewers across the globe. Each year there is an effort to grow bigger and better and that is what has been happening from the year 2000, when it all started. This time, there were more people, more awareness, better quality and an overall excitement in the celebration of a cinema, which is the largest in the world.
Q: Many believe the annual IIFA event is only an excuse for stars to have a good time, that no one is interested in films and awards.
A: It isn't. But even if it is, so what! Yes, they do have a good time. Are stars not human? Are they not entitled to it? And for your information, IIFA is not just about awards. It's about an effort to give Indian cinema the respectability and dignity it so richly deserves, internationally and to the rest of the world. For too long has Indian cinema been ridiculed, treated with frivolous cynicism and ignored.
The whole world is stunned by the potential and the power of an emerging and powerful India. Cinema in India has become a parallel culture and is a vital part of this huge power. We were too reticent and shy of our creativity in the past. Not any more! With our strengths and capabilities we are creating huge waves and IIFA is one such important wave.
Q: You paid a tribute to Black this year. Please describe the experience of enacting that skit.
A: The tribute is a masterpiece created by Shiamak Davar and his troupe. To encapsulate two hours of drama on film into a stage representation lasting five to seven minutes and not losing a moment of the emotion and aesthetics of the original is miraculous and I just had to be a part of it with Rani... Amongst all the vigorous, colourful and dynamic acts that were a part of the stage show, this one stood out as a quiet, sombre and absolutely stunning performance. It left a lasting effect.
Q: As expected, Black swept the awards. You, of course, got your umpteenth award. How was this awards experience, unique?
A: It was unique because I happened to be there. Most of the awards' ceremonies this year I had to miss due to my illness. Winning it in the presence of my grandchildren was the best experience.
Q: What were the highlights this year?
A: There was the inauguration of the festival of Indian films of the bygone era, with special attention to the south Indian film industry. Stars prominent in the southern region were present. A book on cinema visuals in India was released, done by Sheena Sippy, daughter of Ramesh Sippy, and, of course, the music release of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, which was an awesome moment. As we left, the hotel management sighed "Gosh! Everything is going to become so quiet now in Dubai. All the buzz and excitement is sadly over."
Q: Finally, what's the immediate work you've returned to?
A: Cheeni Kum and Baabul, and a little later KANK.