Our man in Mumbai, DEVANSH PATEL, talks to the man who does not hesitate to pack a punch, Amitabh Bachchan, in the first of a two-part exclusive about his latest film
THE original action hero is saving the world once again or - let's put it this way - at almost 70, this man has mortality on his mind. Welcome Amitabh Bachchan, aka The Angry Young Man, who just doesn't seem to age when it comes to action films.
I meet my mentor, my inspiration, at his office in Janak on the third floor. Just like the many indestructible heroes, Big B has come back swinging in the ring yet again, doing what he does best - punching and kicking the baddies. Mr Bachchan just speaks what's in his heart and on his mind.
When I say it, you won't believe it. But when Vijay - his most famous screen name, which means victory - says it, you know it's the truth.
There is an awesomeness to Mr Bachchan's unabashed masculinity, with the swirling gusts of aftershave and the shoulder-punching carousing.
Endurance is an essential part of his male code. His films depict that in many ways too. I've always seen it in his eyes, yes, in Mr Bachchan's eyes lie his strength. For Amitabh Bachchan, it's not about how hard you can hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It's about how much you can take.
It's what I call the return of 'the angry young man' - the label he was given by a journalist back in the 70s. Well, we are better off having you back, Mr Bachchan, because nothing has changed, even the adulation. We are screaming and saying, 'We love you, Vijay! Now go kick some butt!'
DEVANSH PATEL: You've done more action scenes than many stunt choreographers have in their film career.
Almost every action hero fan knows the name Amitabh Bachchan. But where did the 'angry young man' tag come from?
AMITABH BACHCHAN: The line 'angry young man' was made up by a journalist back then. I've never contributed to it. I've never contributed to any kind of epithet. I'm just happy being an artist and doing my job. But I'm sure he must've felt that my name had to have a tag line. So all these lovely names and sentences that are constructed by the media, well, I'm living by it.
DP: Sir, you're taking our memories back to your live and kicking days. Honestly, did you remember your Agneepath, Hum, Mard, Sholay, Amar Akbar Anthony and Khuda Gawah days?
AB: I'd like to treat every role according to the way it has been written and constructed by the director. Then they guide me and tell me how they want it. If there are certain additions that I want to do and if it is acceptable, then I do it. If there are things that I don't like, I share it with my director and come out with a solution.
By and large, I would like to follow the captain of the ship and I don't follow what I have done in the past. Yes, I haven't done any action flicks since those days so I am happy doing it now.
DP: I've seen this distinctive affinity that AB Corp has for subjects, stories or scripts that are diverse and never tried and tested before, such as Paa, Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap. Will that trend continue Mr Bachchan?
AB: We aren't making any deliberate effort to do that. If Paa and Bbuddah have happened to be never tried or tested then it is purely coincidental.
A happy coincidence actually (smiles).
I think it's wonderful to be able to have a bit of diversity in what we do. It lends a lot of credence to our work as professionals. Yes, it also adds a little to the profile of the company because we feel that we are ready to experiment with new ideas and thoughts.
"I don't think AB Corp goes out looking for something unique. If it happens and we feel that this is something that we'd want to associate ourselves with, and provided it is done within the kind of budget that is allocated, then we go ahead and do it.
DP: But honestly, when you do action, does it take you back to your Coolie days, sir?
AB: Well, there is always a fear of getting hurt and one is conscious about that. One takes precautions.
I will not say that we weren't conscious of this earlier on.
Even the incident in my yesteryear film, Coolie, was something that was a regular stunt. The day before the horrific incident I had done a couple of stunts myself and I never had a scratch. But one small punch-up scene got me in deep trouble. You get hurt sometimes. It's a normal phenomenon, but precautions are a must.
DP: What is your favourite action film from India and overseas?
AB: Oh gosh! I really cannot remember any. But some of the recent Hollywood flicks have some amazing stunts, thanks to the technology. But we are in this profession that we sometimes wonder how it was done. Now of course, everything has become so transparent that we come to know what's CG and what's not. A film viewer wouldn't come to know.
DP: So how did your yesteryear song Sara Zamana happen with all the lighting and all? It must've been a revelation back then?
AB: The Sara Zamana song was done in Kolkata at the Netaji Subhash stadium and we lit candles in the entire auditorium on the chairs. Then there was my lighted dress. It was electrically connected to 220 watts.
We had to take a lot of precautions because the wiring had to be very intricate. The wires came out through the trousers stuck to the boots and from the boot it went to a plug really far away. We've recently done the same thing for Bbuddah too, for promotions.
DP: You have worked with so many film directors from Mumbai, but what really makes a South Indian director different? I mean, isn't their description of action humorous?
AB: It's not a bad idea to make action look humorous. We are faking it in any case in front of the camera. But it's nice sometimes when you have a little 'take it away from the intensity' action (smiles). Many directors out here too have done that.
DP: This is your son Abhishek Bachchan's film as much as it is yours. What input did he give in the making of Bbuddah? And did you talk it out? AB: Abhishek green-lighted the idea of the story and, of course, the budgeting. He made sure that everything was done in the right budget. He gave his input in the marketing too, ideas for promotions and stuff like that.
DP: While the whole world is going gaga about action, I want to know more about your 'Jackson' moves, sir. Spill the beans, Mr Bachchan. How was it to 'shake a leg' after Shava Shava?
AB: (Laughs) Yes, it's been a long time since I shook a leg. Plus, age has also cropped up. I shudder to think about having to do a song.
Once you have committed yourself, then I guess you have to give yourself completely and you go along with what the choreographer has to say. But a lot of modern technology of how you shoot a song or an action sequence has taken care of a lot of concerns that we've had as far as performances are concerned. Everybody peps you up on the sets and your legs start to move instantly.
I loved every bit of it. I was in the mood for dancing and doing action and, as Puri rightly said, I just couldn't stop myself (laughs).
* See next week for part two of this exclusive interview