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  Age on Sunday   13 May 2018  49 not out

49 not out

Published : May 13, 2018, 6:44 am IST
Updated : May 13, 2018, 6:44 am IST

Amitabh Bachchan talks about his fortunate career, his father, and his compulsive need to keep working.

Amitabh Bachchan
 Amitabh Bachchan

There are two types of people — big ocean liners and nuclear submarines — when both meld into one, you get Amitabh Bachchan, a man who has revelled in his art form to bring joy to millions. A little known fact: his name was changed from Inquilaab (revolution) to Amitabh (blinding light) —  at the insistence of his father’s friend Sumitranandan Pant. Ironically, years later Amitabh starred in a movie of the same name and he fit into an iconic role that he essayed with great perfection for years — that of an Angry Young Man.

In his 49th year in cinema, having experienced peaks and troughs like in any trade cycle, the thespian has remained true to his art form and worked through these periods of extreme pain, isolation and even loss of self belief.  Amitabh Bachchan has broken the mould over and over again – be it Cheeni Kum, Black, Pa, Shamitabh, Piku, Wazir or Pink – he has surprised audiences with every release. He continues to test his limits with challenging roles and young directors who marvel at his professionalism. Excerpts from an interview on the eve of the release of his latest film, 102 Not Out.

Do you think you got typecast by MKD and Prakash Mehra, because of which you were unable to do meaningful cinema in the 1970s and 80s?
All the films I have done have been meaningful, every one of them had a beginning, a middle and an end. More importantly, poetic justice was served within 3 hours in all of them. You and I shall never get poetic justice in our lifetime — that is the beauty of Indian cinema. My age restricts me from playing young characters, so I must do roles commensurate with my age. I am fortunate to be getting work at this age, and at this stage of my career. I hope 102 does not disappoint.

How would you define your career, would you break it up into phases? Are in one of your most fruitful and creative phases?
My career has been riddled with good fortune. The audience has blessed and tolerated my work from 1969 to 2018. I do not know what ‘phases’ mean. I am just happy to be around.

Your body of work is humongous, but you acknowledge the role that Yash Chopra, Prakash Mehra, MKD and Hrishikesh Mukherjee played in the initial years of your career. Whom would you give the most credit to?
Every filmmaker that I have worked with deserves acknowledgement. It was their vision and craft that helped me. To me, they are all champions!

Salim-Javed used your Paul Muni-like baritone to great effect. What was it like working with them?
Salim saheb and Javed saheb gave me scripts and stories that put me in the eyes of the public. Their scripts were creatives of immense credibility, the very best ever, perhaps. They were very conversant with the moods of the audience and they had a great sense of screenplay. I am not sure how they used me with reference to Paul Muni, but why do we always compare our work with that of others in foreign lands. Salim-Javed are established, home-grown talents, and we should take great pride in them. Equating them with someone from the west is unacceptable to me.

Do you think the Indian film industry receives adequate global recognition?
We are the Indian Film Industry, the largest in the world. 3.8 billion people worldwide watch our films, and only about 2.6 billion watch Hollywood films. Tell me, who is receiving more “global recognition”. We are often asked when India will produce a film like Hollywood. I ask, when will Hollywood make a film like ours? Are they even capable?

Which movie would you describe as the high point of your career — Zanjeer or Namak Haram or Deewar?

 They were all landmark films that made a great impact on the audience. It was a challenge and a joy to be associated with them. Zanjeer gave me my first individual success, but the others were of equal value.

You once told me that you would like to leave a lasting legacy, be a sort of Elvis Presley.
Did I? That was extremely immodest and foolish of me, my apologies. I would never dare to be so presumptuous! I am only interested in the legacy my father has left behind, and I would like to work towards giving it strength and respect for as long as I live.

Does the fear of bankruptcy keep you going?
Every hour it troubles me. 
I work to keep myself stable.

Fear of bankruptcy: 
Every hour it troubles me. 
I work to keep myself stable.

Tags: amitabh bachchan, zanjeer