One always comes back a wee bit wiser and a wee bit humbler after a chat with the biggest star of the country, Amitabh Bachchan. Though he continues to enthrall audiences even at age 70 with his splendid performances, and crazy fans still flock around his home in Mumbai, the Big B understands that stardom and all its trappings come with an expiry date. And he is prepared to embrace with open arms everything that life brings in its fold. Excerpts from an interview:
You are one of the most recognised faces in India. Do you ever crave to be a commoner and maybe walk to the nearest park?
But I am a commoner. I do walk in nearby parks with my family. If attention is created, it is not my doing. The public is doing that. I am just having a walk! At this age you still have people queuing outside your house chanting your name and wanting to catch a glimpse of you…
Those are fans’ ways of showing their love and acknowledgement! It is going to go away in a couple of years. These are phases in every actor’s life. People start liking you as you become successful and then you grow old and people don’t like you any more.
Does that scare you that some day you might not have people waiting outside your gate to catch your glimpse?
Not at all! I know it is going to end some day. Times change and then when you go to a public place you will not get the kind of screams that you used to get. Younger stars come in and then the cycle starts again.
Do you think there would be anyone in India who does not recognise you?
Of course there must be many who do not know me. And he/she would not know me simply because they do not know of me. Who and why they are and do not, reeks of arrogance.
Do you meet your best friends from college and school?
Yes I do. They are all in different vocations of life and well settled. Some continue to work and some have retired.
How do they react to your stardom?
I do not know. Ask them. For me they are my classmates or colleagues.
Does growing old trouble you?
No it does not. Simply because I am not the first one!
At this age, where do your draw inspirations from?
My parents may not be here but their blessings and memories are still with me. They have always motivated me and helped me. It is always good to have someone elder at home. Now that I am the eldest person, I work to make myself a good example.
Talking about age, you are someone who probably changed the way characters are written. Considering you have had films revolving around your character even now. Roles have been created for you!
I would not like to look at it that way. I think I was just fortunate. I don’t think there is any kind of pioneering effort here. There are many people who worked longer than me. There was Dadamuni who worked for so long and was such a fantastic actor.
Your career had almost ended before ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ changed things. How did it change you?
I didn’t change. My age changed! I was doing roles which were more my age. When you are playing the leading man it is more or less designed for you. You will romance, there will be some problems but eventually you get the girl. But when you are into character roles, they have different shades and there is an opportunity to play different roles. That’s very exciting for an actor!
Since you say that you have not changed, do you still talk to your bathroom mirror?
I do. I think everyone does.
Talking about the younger lot, has there been any actor who debuted in the last five years who has impressed you?
They are all very good. I have great admiration for this younger generation. I find them a lot more learned, a lot more competent, very aggressive. We learn from every film. When we started off there weren’t so many opportunities. People were more tolerant to us. They are not the same today. You have to hit the bull’s eye or you are out. So you have to give them a lot of credit. The kids today look so well-trained!
‘If you get it, it’s good. If you don’t get it, even better!’…remember something on these lines?
That was something my father taught me as a child. I was supposed to do a play in school. The previous year I had won a prize and I was hoping to win it again. But I fell ill due to measles and I was not allowed to take part. My father then told me that maybe doing the play despite being ill would have led to more health problems. That’s why we leave a lot of things to God as he knows best.
Do you remember yourself as a child?
I remember things from when I was around that age but it is very difficult to remember how I behaved. You remember things, places and situations that left an impression on you at that time. On my birthdays, when I was around four-five years old, I used to run up to people and ask them what they got for me! Times have changed. Now I am happy if I keep getting good work and my family is with me. It is good to spend time with the family.
You got to wear school uniforms for your film, ‘Paa’. Does uniform please you?
It was great. Uniformity has its own advantages. It might be the school flag, your class… I remember our school was divided into four houses. And because we were in Sherwood College, all our houses were designed as per the tales of Robin Hood. So there was Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck and Alan-a-Dale. I was in Robin Hood house. We fought for our houses and it would be an all round effort to be the number one house.
Who was naughtier as a child – Abhishek or Shweta?
They all are naughty. Abhishek was a brat when he was young. Shweta was more reserved.