Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Making his mark

Legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan’s blue-eyed boy, Abhishek, believes there’s more to acting than just a glorified bloodline, writes Sneha May Francis

Here’s a man blessed with an envious star lineage, smart looks, and a gorgeous green-eyed actress for a wife. One would think his world couldn’t get any more perfect. But despite all these glorious frills, there’s something that’s eluded Abhishek Bachchan so far – recognition. The man is popular, no doubt, but very rarely for his acting escapades. Bachchan junior has had to work extremely hard to create a slot for himself in Bollywood without depending on his illustrious bloodline. It took him 17 films to prove he’s got the stuff that actors are made of, but he’s still a long way from matching up with his legendary parents – Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan. His happy act in Dostana might’ve helped garner some critical acclaim, but it wasn’t enough to wipe away the bad after-effect of his clumsy performance in Drona.
We caught up with Abhishek when he visited Dubai to showcase Delhi-6, a film he promised would be a revelation, but which we later found out to be a tad disappointing.
We rewind to our ‘10-minute’ interview slot.
The rush of sunlight at the hotel café set the perfect mood for our rendezvous, only this time we had other journos for company. The hustle and bustle is a given, considering Dubai rarely gets treated to Bollywood visitors.
In any case, the man arrives, bang on time, dressed in a quirky white shirt, blotched on one side with a large blue eagle. It’s hard to ignore the bizarre shirt, but we try. It’s his well-toned body and cropped hair-do that’s caught our attention next. We speculate it’s for Mani Ratnam’s next flick Ravaan, but Abhi shoots that down with "that’s not the title of the film" before conceding, a tad reluctantly, that we are spot-on in our theory that it’s for the film. We ignore the curt response and quiz him about his association with filmmaker Mani, who gave his career the much-needed push with the rebellious Lallan in Yuva and the ambitious tycoon Gurukant Desai in Guru. "He’s (Mani) a dear friend and a mentor to me. I’d do anything for him. He doesn’t need to show me the script, he just needs to tell me when he wants to shoot. That’s the kind of love and respect I have for him," claims the Bachchan boy.
Since we’ve read enough about his "brilliant" sense of humour, we thought we’d put it to test it by asking him to pick one thing he doesn’t like about his Delhi-6 co-star Sonam Kapoor. But Abhishek stalls, looks uneasy and shouts out to Sonam, who’s seated around the corner, for an answer. When we protest, he blurts out a lame: "She’s always wearing flats. I don’t like that. She’s tall and should wear heels". We could comprehend what was really funny about that line, so we let the humour angle pass and allow Abhishek to hide behind his shades and mumble away in his husky voice.
We note his interesting association with Delhi-6 director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who was supposed to launch Abhishek in Bollywood with Samjhauta Express. Fate, however, played spoilsport, leaving it to JP Dutta to do the introduction with Refugee. We prompt him to reexamine his career and ask how it would’ve shaped up had he waited for Mehra’s golden touch. But Abhishek doesn’t believe in looking back. "I only hope it’s the start of a wonderful collaborative relationship between Rakeysh and me, and that we go on to make some wonderful films," he adds.
It’s Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance that we take on next. A film that narrates the smooth ride most star kids enjoy, contradictory to Abhishek’s tough real-life story. He accepts there are perks, but not enough to see you through. "Let’s be very honest. It’s definitely easy to get your foot in the door. There are millions of other actors who are hundred times better than us but don’t get an opportunity to make a film. But I do everyday. I’m blessed, I’m lucky and I’m thankful for it," he adds. But he disapproves of the negativity surrounding the inheritance of such a glorified status. "It shouldn’t be held against us. It’s not our fault. It’s a bonus that our parents have been in this industry. I don’t think anyone blames the son of a business tycoon when he takes on his dad’s business. So why are we being alienated?"
Abhishek claims he was warned about the harsh realities of the film world by celebrated filmmaker Yash Chopra. "He told him that people won’t spend their hard-earned money on you only because your dad is a superstar. Your father will only bring the public to your first show, after that you have to prove who you are." Abhishek went on to do just that. After 17 films, he’s finally getting a stronghold in Bollywood. And this star kid isn’t bitter about it: "Most actors don’t get more than one film to prove themselves, but I got 17! And I owe it all to my parents."
Considering he’s had a rollercoaster outing in Bollywood, we ask if there’s anything special he does to soothe his nerves before his film releases. "I have a disorder: I speak a lot. I meet as many journalists as possible. No, I’m kidding," he adds, hinting he’s got a funny streak after all. He quickly reverts to the serious tone and informs us that he watches all his films at the theatre. "Apart from Dostana, I’ve watched all my films in the theatres. Maybe not the first show, but definitely on the first day," he informs.
While on Dostana, we congratulate him for his brilliant act and confess our love for the character Sammer. "So did John!" he quips. Abhishek adds he’s won a nomination for the Filmfare Best Actor Award for the film as well.
We move onto his latest Bollywood outing – Delhi-6, a film touted as filmmaker Mehra’s semi-autobiographical film. Abhishek corrects us: it’s not semi-autobiographical but has "certain visuals which he [Mehra] had experienced before." We wonder if that’s not what "semi-autobiographical" means, but we don’t argue and allow him to continue.
He adds that Delhi-6 is a film that hopes to revive two things. "It makes you question yourself, which I believe is important. Secondly, it portrays today’s youth in a different light. A section that’s always been accused, wrongly so, of being very complacent and impatient. This film is a wonderful answer to all those accusations."
No interview would be complete without allowing the man to gush about his lovely wife. So we give in. He details how it’s great to work with his wife Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (who also stars in Mani’s Ravaan). "It’s wonderful. We are very professional but the great thing [about working together] is that the minute you wrap, you get to spend time with your wife," he adds.
Our 10-minute slot draws to a close, with just enough time for Abhishek to fill us in on his future projects. "After Mani’s film, I start work on Balki’s Pa, with my dad and Vidya Balan. And then a film with new director Abhinay Deol," he adds.
Looks like it’s about time Abhishek got his fair share of the big Bollywood bite. Considering he’s got another chance in Bollywood, we only hope he doesn’t take his second innings for granted.

Published as cover story in e+, May 14th issue

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