The man is an institution in himself. If there were a Bollywood dictionary, it would be replete with references to him. For, the best way to explain the word ‘star’ would be to say that it means what Amitabh Bachchan is. Ditto for the term ‘super-star’. How do you define talent? It is what Bachchan has in abundance. A legend? It is what Amitabh is…. Excerpts from a conversation with the man who is an inspiration to lakhs of people who want to make their mark in this industry and to millions of people who may not want to come into the industry but who, nevertheless, are fans of the great actor.
At the age of 68, which is either the retirement age or well past it for most people, you still define what Bollywood is. How do you do this?
I don’t know how this is happening, but it is happening. I have never looked at this way: that with advancing age, something is going to be wrong. I had always borne in mind the fact that till a certain age, I would continue playing the leading man in films. Beyond that, whatever work trickles in old age, would be welcome. I am fortunate that there are a few producers and directors who still want to work with me.
I think you are lying. There are, in fact, only a few producers who may not want to work with you…
(Laughs) It’s not like that… I will soon be working in films with Prakash Jha and Rakesh Mehra. I am also in talks with a few other people.
Buzz is that in Rajkumar Santoshi’s ‘Power’, you will be performing your own stunts.
So I have been told. As you know, these days there is a lot of technical help for actors who want to do their own stunts. In the good old days, when I was young, there were only a few facilities, and knowledge about stunts was limited. Today, the scenario has completely changed, and doing stunts is much easier. All said and done, doing one’s own stunts is a difficult task and requires physical fitness. I will try and do my own stunts for Power, or will just tell them ki bhaiya yeh toh nahin ho sakta! (I can’t do this!)
Was it frightening to do your own stunts in the ’70s and ’80s? After all, you were the angry young man of the Hindi film industry.
I never thought that I would have to fight only because I had the image of the angry young man. But since there was a lot of pressure on me to find roles and then, to do them well, I did whatever I was asked to do. One can be easily scared, but I never felt so while performing even dangerous stunts. But as fate would have it, a mere fist fight in Coolie caused me an injury that aggravated so much later on. Hence, you can never be sure about action and life. What you can do is take the necessary precautions and ask yourself if you’ll be able to do the stunt. Any doubts should be communicated to the director or stunt director.
Is there no ego problem while refusing to do a particular stunt? Have you ever felt, ‘How can I not do this?’
I don’t think like that. Nobody wants to harm himself on purpose. Though, sometimes, there is a satisfaction in doing one’s own stunts, because then the audience appreciates that you didn’t use a stunt double. Secondly, it feels bad when, as it often happens during risky action sequences, the stunt double is hurt while performing the stunt for you.
But most stars are aiming for Hollywood. You never really went down that road?
I never got feelers from Hollywood. I don’t know them. Neither do they know me. It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond rather than be a small fry in the ocean. I am good here.
Have no Hollywood offers come your way?
Off and on, people come and have some talks and then they never come back… they are not to blame. They have their own system, their own world. How can an Indian enter that, apart from the occasional film (that needs an Indian character). The reverse is also true. How many foreigners do we accept in our industry?
Log on to Koimoi.com for the full transcript and video clips of Amitabh Bachchan’s exclusive interview with Komal Nahta.