Hello. (Settling into a large, white armchair) Hello, this chair is most embarrassing. Is it the Bigg Boss equivalent of the psychiatrist’s couch? I wouldn’t know since I haven’t been on one but may be it’s their concept of one. When you’re playing the game you follow the rules.
Your role in the new game is befuddling, what’s a pop philosopher?
When the channel approached me to come on the show, I was aware of what it was about. At the same time, I felt that if I got involved, I wanted to examine the concept from a different perspective.
I’ve always been intrigued by what happens to the inmates when they are cut off from all that’s familiar and placed under house arrest. No newspapers, no magazines, no books, no phones, no TV, no internet, not even a clock for 84 days. Three months is a long period to be locked away and I’ve often wondered what went on in the minds of these people that made them act, react and interact in the way that they did. I’ll be decoding events and unlocking minds in an effort to logically explain certain acts to millions of viewers.
You were cut off from your family too during your years in boarding school.
Yeah, I’d leave home in March for Nainital and return home only in November. During those nine months, there were no breaks or opportunities to meet my family. Naturally, there was an overpouring of emotions when we were reunited. The initial resentment that comes from being sent away, faded after a while.
Was that the longest you’ve been away?
Noooo, I left home again to look for a job in Kolkata. And this time there was the joy of being independent and earning my own money. I’ve always enjoyed being alone but I can’t imagine being so completely cut off.
But the Bachchan family has been pretty scattered over the last few years?
Yeah, Jaya, Abhishek, Aishwarya and I all have hectic schedules. Every morning, we pack our bags and head off in different directions. Sometimes even when we are living in the same house, we don’t see each other for days together.
It feels odd at times but thanks to modern technology — the phone, computer and fax — we stay connected. It’s never been anything like what these 13 inmates of the house experience.
Don’t you sometimes yearn for the anonymity of your early days?
You may not have 35 cameras recording your every move but you must still feel like you’re living in a fish bowl. Yeah, after I became a known figure thanks to this profession, I’ve learnt to value peace of mind.
I took a sabbatical some years ago and visited different countries where I could go grocery shopping, post letters, do all those small chores I’d grown up doing. It was fun! In recent years, with the electronic media taking on the fervor of the western paparazzi and following me around, recording what I do and then using it in a different context altogether, that kind of privacy I now enjoy only within the confines of my own home.
Buzz is that your pay packet, Rs 2.50 crore per episode, makes you the highest paid star on TV today.
The figure quoted is incorrect, the rumour is off. Contractually, I am not at liberty to reveal details about my package.
Do you watch other shows hosted by stars to keep abreast of the competition?
I do watch TV but I skim through a lot of what’s on show. I only manage sometimes to sit through the news or a panel discussion or debate.
Are you open to another season of KBC?
Unfortunately, the property is no longer with Star and I doubt if any other channel would be given the rights to the show. So… (Shrugs). On your blog on Dusshera you made a mention of slaying Ravana. Are there any personal demons you want to slay on Bigg Boss? (Laughs) Oh, there are so many Ravanas I would want to slay but I’d never do it publicly.
I thought Pa had helped you break free of your inhibitions and famous reserve. If your director, Balki, is to be believed, you are like a 12-year-old brat on the sets, throwing tantrums galore.
(Chuckles) Balki was just joking, he knows how to work the PR machine. Yes, I play a child in the film who suffers from a rare disorder, progeria, that accelerates the aging process. So it’s a 12 year old trapped in the body of a 60 year old.
I’m told you are in make-up for hours?
That’s right. It takes me about four-and-a-half hours to put make-up on and have the various body parts attached. And an hour-and-a-half to get it off. So, for six hours a day I am sitting virtually motionless in front of the mirror. Tough but when you commit to something you do your best.
And who was the inspiration for this 12-year-old boy?
I’d watch my grandchildren, recollect what Abhishek and Shweta were at the age and dredge up my own childhood memories.
I can’t imagine your children, grandchildren or even you ever being a brat?
(Smiles) You don’t have to bring personal reactions to cinema. The role is designed for you and you just need to play it out convincingly.