AMITABH BACHCHAN’S INTERVIEW: CINEBLITZ:1996

SUSHMITA SEN:I’ve always wanted to be a journalist. Thanks to CINE BLITZ for giving me this opportunity. I can’t believe I’m interviewing my favourite star!

AMITABH BACHCHAN: You won’t be thanking them when this is through!

Sushmita: Okay, let’s get serious. Tell me, did you take a few years off, to set up ABCL and put it on the right track? Or was it that you just wanted a break from work?

Amitabh:I just wanted a break from work and I think I deserved one.

Sushmita: Sure! But you have also been busy with your company. What really brought your back to films?

Amitabh:(with a wry smile): Well, part of the work of the company is to work in movies. I had no choice.

Sushmita: Now what does that mean?

Amitabh:I was pretty happy doing nothing. The Corporate Memorandum of its activities was that I should work in movies.

Sushmita: Does a star get addicted to fan adulation?

Amitabh:I think celebrities like to be admired by fans and it would be dishonest of me to say that the day they disappear, I won’t miss them.

Sushmita:Was that one of the reasons for your return or is it that there are a lot more pretty girls around?

Amitabh:There aren’t any pretty girls around anymore, which is sad.

Sushmita: I’ll just ignore that! Tell me, how does it feel to be back in the same old dusty studios?

Amitabh:It’s fine. If these are the conditions, I have no problem. I will still be working.

Sushmita:People are bound to react negatively to your return to films. Does it bother you?
Amitabh:What do you mean?

Sushmita:Are you prepared for another round of criticism regarding your work, roles or films?

Amitabh:Of course. That comes with the kind of work we do. It is all a matter of opinion.

Sushmita:Isn’t it very courageous of you to make a return when there are so many young macho guys to compete with? Do you think that it’s the right thing to do?

Amitabh:I believe that these young macho heroes have a place of their own. What we have to see is, whether I have a place of my own here. I guess it is up to the people who watch films to decide whether I should be here or not.

Sushmita:Don’t you think you should have returned to do more mature and sober films like Robert De Niro does; instead of once again playing an angry old man and doing another round of action-oriented films like Mrityudaata?

Amitabh:Mrityudaata is not an action film. Once the product is out you can see what it is all about. I’m ready to accept any role, any look, any kind of film. I’m open to everything, whether it is action, a family social or comedy.

Sushmita:Have you set some limit for yourself like Dilip Kumar or Aamir Khan, that you will only do a certain number of films?

Amitabh:Lady, other stars have a choice, I don’t. Because there aren’t very many people who want to see me.

Sushmita:Even today, you remain the ‘Number One’ crowd puller. How have you been able to sustain this popularity?

Amitabh: I disagree with this contention of yours. I am not a crowd puller.
Sushmita:Have you ever tried to analyse this attraction?

Amitabh: But I’m, telling you, I don’t believe in this attraction.

Sushmita: Amitji, every evening, there are hundreds of people waiting outside your house just to see you.

Amitabh:lt is just the location of my house. It has nothing to do with me. Mine is a corner bunglow and in the vicinity you have a mandir, Juhu beach, a cinema hall. It is a popular meeting place. So people just pass that way.

Sushmita: Every Sunday evening when I drive past your house and I get caught in a traffic jam because of the people waiting for a glimpse of you. Could you please do something about that?

Amitabh: I wish I could physically move my house from there but it is impossible.

Sushmita: Why do people look up to you?

Amitabh: I’m six feet two inches tall. They’ve got to look up to me!

Sushmita: You have always said that you could not spend time with your kids when they were growing up. Have you made it up to them in the last five years?

Amitabh:That’s a regret in my life and what is lost, cannot be regained. I missed out on their growing up and now they are at an age when they want to be with people of their own age group. They are leading their own lives in overseas institutions.

Sushmita: Do they ever complain or bring routine problems to you?

Amitabh: Yes, sometimes, when they want to do things together.

Sushmita: Does Jaya ever bring her household problems to you?

Amitabh: Jaya realises I have a busy life and she herself is busy. In all homes certain things have to be handled jointly. That’s how we handle our problems.

Sushmita: After achieving the kind of stardom you have, do you regret not being able to live life like an ordinary man?

Amitabh: But I have always lived like an ordinary man.

Sushmita: Have you ever eaten on the roadside?

Amitabh: Of course! I do it even now. I go to Chowpatty to have bhelpuri and to Tardeo to have this egg preparation that you get on the streets. I like it.

Sushmita: What time do you go there? Maybe I can follow you.

Amitabh:Why follow, you can come along.

Sushmita:You must be going at midnight, since you can’t even disguise yourself.

Amitabh:Why do I need to disguise myself? You spend your whole life trying to impress the people of your country and when that happens after your films release, you try to disguise yourself. Never! You die to be noticed. Every actor wants recognition.

Sushmita: When did you and Jaya last go to a movie or to dinner?

Amitabh:In India? Unfortunately, not for so many years. We do go to premieres and private viewings. And yes, we do dine in restaurants. Jaya is not the kind of person who wants to go out all the time. Neither am l. So we are quite alike.

Sushmita: How do you spend your holidays abroad?

Amitabh: Primarily, it has been work oriented or children oriented. Holidays have been few and far between.

Sushmita: How sad, to earn so much and not be able to spend it properly.

Amitabh: What makes you think I am earning?

Sushmita: In New York, you have been busy doing a lot of car racing with your Lamborghini. Is it a new hobby?

Amitabh: I have some friends in New York who race cars and they took me along. I quite enjoyed that.

Sushmita: Jaya is also acting in a TV serial on historical women.

Amitabh: Yes, I read about it somewhere.

Sushmita: You mean she didn’t tell you?

Amitabh: We like to surprise each other sometimes.

Sushmita: So in a way, both of you are making a comeback. Is it a conscious decision?
Amitabh:Not at all!

Sushmita: Knowing this industry as well as you do, would you let your kids, especially your daughter Shweta, join films?

Amitabh: If they have a desire to, whether it is my son or daughter, I shall not stop them.

Sushmita: Women must be making passes at you.

Amitabh: Unfortunately, wornen have never tried to make a pass at me.

Sushmita: If they did, how would you handle them?

Amitabh: Very delicately!

Sushmita: You’ve been a part of lot of hot controversies. Did they affect your popularity or family life?
Amitabh: It has never affected me, my family, my friends or the people I come in contact with. As for popularity, that is for the people to answer.

Sushmita: If I have a lover, do you think it is easier to admit to or is it more advisable to deny him, especially in this line?

Amitabh: I am a bad advisor, so don’t ask me.

Sushmita: Now that you are back, you may once again get linked with some actresses…

Amitabh: NOT A CHANCE IN HELL!

Sushmita: What does it take for an innocent girl like me, to survive in this terribly male chauvinist industry?

Amitabh: Just remain innocent!

Sushmita: We are both tall people and there are very few heroes who match my height. What do you suggest?
Amitabh: Start working with me!

Sushmita: I would love to do a film with you, would you do a romantic role opposite me?

Amitabh:I’ll try to, provided the director believes it will be romantic. Normally, he would cast me as your father.

Sushmita: Today, Hollywood actresses like Pamela Anderson, are going in for artificial aids like silicon. Would you recommend these to our actresses?

Amitabh: That’s a matter of personal choice.

Sushmita: Being the boss at ABCL, do you select actresses on the basis of talent, looks or something else?
Amitabh: I don’t look after that department. We have a panel of eminent judges from the industry and society to select actresses.

Sushmita: Had I applied, would I have stood a chance of winning.

Amitabh: Sure!

Sushmita: On the basis of what?

Amitabh:- Oh, we have the usual screen test to judge one’s acting, dancing and singing ability.
Sushmita: I was just thinking, Mumtaz quit when she was at her peak like you. But she made a disastrous come back…

Amitabh: Thanks for the encouragement!

Sushmita: Does’nt that make you nervous?

Amitabh: No, I will take whatever is in store for me.

Sushmita: You came very close to death once. How did it feel to be almost there?

Amitabh:Most of the time I was unconscious, so there was no sense of feeling. But yes, it is very gratifying to still be alive. Thanks to the marvellous work done on my body by eminent doctors and the millions of people who prayed for me, and voluntarily did all kinds of penance. It is even more frightening because, 90 per cent of those people you have never seen and perhaps you will never know. It fills me with a deep sense of gratitude towards God and the people, which remains a permanent debt. I’ll never be able to repay.

Sushmita: Don’t you think it is too heavy a price to pay for the kind of work you do?

Amitabh: I don’t blame the profession. It could have happened to anyone.

Sushmita: I had read somewhere that in your next life you would like to be a journalist. Why?

Amitabh: I will tell you why when I become one.

Sushmita: But when?

Amitabh: In my next life, obviously!!

Interview courtesy CineBlitz, June 96.

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