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Junior B: The Dark Horse

Abhishek Bachchan has carved a niche for himself, writes Arnab Banerjee.

india Updated: Oct 29, 2005 18:54 IST

Any cinema afficionado would in his heart of hearts submit that it’s honest acting that leaves an indelible mark in their minds.

Abhishek Bachchan might have had a pathetic start, not just in terms of his choice of roles but even as someone who, after making a decision to enter films, chose to take on the larger-than-life figure looming large over him – obviously his father Big B’s image.

But he did make critics do a double take as his skills as an actor came forth honestly. "He has a vulnerable look about him which makes him very endearing," says mentor JP Dutta,who gave him his first break in Refugee.

His debut did create ripples. Cinema buffs had great expectations from him. Popular perception: After all he was the son of the extremely talented pair of Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan. Bachchan junior grabbed every opportunity that knocked on his door endorsing some utterly forgettable films that hit screens one after the other and sank without a trace. Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai, Dhai Akshar Prem ke, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya, Haan Maine Bhi Pyar Kiya, Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost, Zameen Kuch na Kaho, Run… the list was endless.

The only silver lining that probably kept him going was some of the top rung directors eyeing him for his "childlike qualities" as director Khaled Mohammad puts it.

Hence Mani Rathnam’s Yuva, Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarrkar and Shaad Ali’s Bunty Aur Bubbly were conceived with him in lead roles. And Bachchan junior gave them his all – without bothering to think of their fate or the image which he was slowly but steadily building up – as a versatile actor, finally.

This week, Bengal’s most prized director Rituparno Ghosh’s released his film, Antarmahal, based on Bengal’s oppression of women by the rich feudal lords in the year 1878. While Jackie Shroff plays the whimsical zamindar and the two female actors- Rupa Ganguly and Soha Ali Khan as his two wives in an interplay of sexual jealousy- Abhishek does not get enough scope to display much. But he does lend the character a quiet dignity that turns out to be one of the high points of the film. As the sculptor who is entrusted with the responsibility of making a Durga idol, he looks every bit the character of a Bihari in all its essence. Allowing his body language and his eyes act, he matches both Soha and the seasoned Rupa Ganguly stroke for stroke. In some of the dramatic scenes his overpowering personality even subdues all other characters and towers over them with his sheer raw appeal. It’s definitely a role which demanded both physical and emotional strength and much to his fans’ delight, which he is able to live upto.

Has he then arrived?

"I think he had arrived when we saw him in Yuva, in yet another Bihari-accented misled youth," believes director and good friend Karan Johar. While dad the Big B did find faults in his performance calling him ":inconsistent", Abhishek won many hearts as Sanjay Leela Bhansali, JP Dutta, Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee and even Tabu echo words of applause unanimously.

Muzaffar Ali, while reserving his comments about his choice of the character he has been chosen to play in Dutta’s film on Umrao Jaan which Faroukh Sheikh played in his version, feels that Abhishek "is one of the finest that we have."

If earlier as Bunty he stole hearts across the common denominators in far flung interiors of Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pardesh, or even in Ramu’s world of mafia in Sarrkar he held his own against the supremely gifted Kay Kay Menon and Big B, Bachchan junior should find himself surrounded with many bouquets for his imposing persona in Ghosh’s new film. Rightfully and deservedly, both commercial an critical success is coming his way.

And let’s hope this is just the beginning, for there are few stars who also happen to be actors.

First Published: Oct 31, 2005 02:00 IST