Apr 14 2010 Harrow Observer
His characters struggle to do the right thing sometimes, but as an actor, Abhishek Bachchan has rarely put a foot wrong writes DEVANSH PATEL
CRITICS love him, magazine writers fawn over him, and he's developed a fan base like no other. That's largely because Abhishek Bachchan's performances are most often off-kilter, angled and light, and full of soul, tenderness, toughness, sincerity and grace, expressed through the liquid cadences of his voice and his diction, his beautiful man-boy face, and the unerring and particular use of limbs to amplify and enhance.
One could go on.
In this exclusive two-part Q and A session, it's the first time Abhishek has been prepared to talk about his inspiration, his meteoric rise, maturity, responsibility, failures, fans, family discussions, finances, his love for Twitter, music and food, his hatred for shopping and the two words he thinks defines, and will define, his career for years to come: 'good luck'.
Q: There was a time when your film career looked a bit crooked. But today, not only filmmakers, but brands are chasing you. What do you think has contributed to your meteoric rise?
A: It comes down to good luck. I don't think I'm an exceptional actor. I don't think I work harder than the other actors do. In this film industry you have to work hard, you have to slog and you have to be at your 'A game' throughout. I don't think I do it much differently to what my colleagues do. I've also done enough work to know that luck is the biggest factor in all. Maybe it just wasn't my time when I started off in the film industry. I could give the best performance and that film may not work. So my career has boiled down to luck.
Q: How do you decide what films will get the green light - for example as a producer of Paa - as a husband and as a proud son of Mr and Mrs Bachchan? Is it down to maturity?
A: No, I don't put it down to maturity. To be in the film business, it is very important to be immature. You need to be in touch with the child within. That's where you get the innocence and excitement from. We tend to get very jaded and cynical as we grow older, seeing the world around us and the troubles that come with it. It's very important to retain a certain amount of wonder and innocence. The most successful people in the film fraternity are basically children at heart. We still get excited when we read a script that grabs our fancy. I've never been the kind of actor who has managed to break down why I should do a film. I still have this naive notion that if you are convinced and you put in a convincing performance, your audiences will buy it. If I plot and plan too much, I'm not going to get that conviction because I'm not going with my heart but going with my mind. The decision to do Paa and to produce it was like a child taking the decision. That's why it worked on a conceptual level.
Q: Has money ever been an issue when it comes to you signing a film or talking about finances?
A: Never. That's one thing I promised myself. I'm a professional who works in a commercial medium, and nobody is doing charity here either way. But, as an artist, I am not going to allow finances and commerce to come in between creativity because I believe that is being dishonest to my craft. If I like a script and my producers tell me that they can only pay me one tenth of my asking price, I'm fine with it. I'm possibly the only actor who hasn't had a market price because I price myself depending on what I think the film deserves. I don't want to be known as a commodity. It's sad that nowadays actors are treating themselves more as a commodity and less as an actor. If you can balance the two, that's great.
Q: How responsible do you feel as an actor if your film is rejected by the audience?
A: There are two parts to that and it's a bit ambiguous. What works is teamwork. No one person can be given the credit - or the blame - for that. My performance would not be anything without my co-stars, my technicians, without the director, etc. It's a fact. If a cinematographer doesn't light the frame properly, I'm not going to be seen. If the sound recordist isn't recording the sound well, I won't be heard. It's an audiovisual medium. These same people can also kill your performance. Because the Indian film industry is almost skewed towards the actors. If you enjoy the perks of that, you should also take blame for it when it goes wrong.
Q: The way you dress, people have started calling you the 'dapper dude'. Talk to us about your favourite brands and street shopping.
A: I'm probably the world's worst person when it comes to shopping. I hate shopping. I can't handle trying on clothes. But having said that, I have an eye for what I want when it comes to my films. It's very important for me to know what the character looks like because I believe that the way the character dresses determines a lot of his persona. Then, in come the costume designers, the stylists, etc. In my personal life, I still steal my father's clothes. I don't shop for myself. I have my mother, my father, my sister, my wife, Karan Johar, and my stylist who shops for me.
Q: What sort of film discussions do you and your family have around the dinner table?
A: When our family sits down together for a meal, we never talk about films. It's a rule that my mother set when we were kids. My father would never talk about films. While we were kids, my grandfather (Abhishek's grandfather was one of India's most celebrated poets, Harivanshrai Bachchan, who died in 2003) would talk about things like literature, world politics, events, his experiences and so on. I remember sitting and listening to all the discussions my family members and guests would come up with while I was a kid. It was very educational. I read my first film magazine when I was 18. It was called Filmfare.
Q: Do you see yourself one day immortalised in wax at the famous Madame Tussauds?
A: I don't know. In some ways, it will be a sort of a family reunion of sorts at Madame Tussauds. I've got my father and my wife (Amitabh Bachcan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) standing there in wax. Sadly and shockingly, I've never been to Madame Tussauds. I've never managed to see Aishwarya or my father's wax statues. I saw my father's waxwork when it came to India for the first time. Yes, it can be a cool thing to be immortalised in wax but I'm not getting desperate.
* Part two of the interview with Abhishek Bachchan follows next week.