Exclusive: In conversation with Abhishek Bachchan
Exclusive: In conversation with Abhishek Bachchan
by Analita Seth | December 21, 2021, 12:15 IST
Abhishek Bachchan has stood his ground with a rock solid grip ever since he made his debut. Coming from a legacy like his’, an actor who is bound to be compared to his legendary father, Amitabh Bachchan, AB Jr. has built his own place in the industry with brilliant performances in films like Bunty Aur Babli, Yuva, Sarkar, Ludo and many more. He lost his inhibition and shed the vanity to play Bob Biswas and it all paid off for him. Bob Biswas is directed by Diva Ghosh and written by her father, Sujoy Ghosh. Analita Seth chats with him about his journey to cracking the character and what makes this film special.
I read somewhere that you watched Kahaani quite late, after almost shooting 80% of the film. But when you did sign up for the film, you had an idea of how the character looked. So did you imagine yourself in that getup before you went on sets and maybe had a look test?
I decided on doing the film more because of the emotion. Considering that his (Sujoy Ghosh) daughter is going to direct the film and I only discovered after I said yes to the film that this was the character called Bob Biswas, which was in his film Kahaani first, which I had not seen at that point of time. The one thing Diya and I were very clear about is how Bob should look, how Bob should walk, how he should move, his physicality and that is something that we wanted to stay true to because it is a character which is popular but you wanted him to look similar. So putting on the weight, achieving the hair the way it is, the glasses, the costume or something we are very sure we wanted to achieve and we set about achieving it. I asked them for sometime for me to put on weight because although we tried prosthetics, I wasn’t happy with it because it seems fake and I asked them for some time to put on the weight and they agreed. That was the physical preparation. In terms of the emotional preparation, what was nice is Bob has been in a coma and Bob has lost his memory. So its nice, you get to rebuild and recalibrate him as a character, so we tried to do that and so there was no pressure that you had to follow some tram lines for the character, you can discover, make, create your new character.
What about the dialect and the language? Did it take a little time to crack that?
No, we didn’t keep a dialect or an accent. Sujoy, when he wrote it, was very clear. Kolkata is a character in the film and he didn’t want to do anything Bengali upfront. So Bob Biswas stayed away from any Bengali accent apart from the ‘Nomoshkar’.
If you as Abhishek Bachchan were to spend a day with Bob Biswas the character, what would you do and what would be the first question you’ll ask him about his life?
Certainly go for a meal with him because apparently, he likes to eat. So probably, you know there is a character called Dhonu, which is Bob’s friend, who owns a Chinese Thela and he is always eating noodles over there. So I will go treat him to noodles because Dhonu makes them really well. What would I ask him? I don’t know if I’ll ask him anything because I mean considering he doesn’t having memory, I mean it is kind of pointless to ask him anything. But what I loved about the character is his niceness. He is a very nice guy, he is so pleasant, he’s cherubic. How does he manage to hold onto that niceness in such adverse situations?
You think with time, your choice of character and scripts has also evolved into slightly serious and intense roles?
No, I just enjoy doing the work that I do. I mean that the character has to inspire me, the story has to inspire me and above all, I want to make films that I would want to watch. I think that should be the first criteria when you hear the script. Is this the film you would want to watch and if its so, then do you see yourself in it and if you do, then you should do it. So there is no particular genre that I am leaning towards. Its just so happens that you know films have come in a particular space in the last 2 years but like my next film ‘Dasvi’ is a more light hearted film.
How was it like working with Diya Ghosh? What was she like on sets?
Diya shocked me, to be very honest. She shocked me because I mean, to see this 26 years old kid have such command over her medium and craft at such an inexperienced age is amazing. I like to ask this this of all the journalists that I talk to, that if you see the trailer, would you believe that Diya was a quiet, shy, reticent, 26 year old girl and nobody has said, ‘Yaa we believe that’, No you don’t! It just goes to show that, you know its just wonderful how she has made this film.
Did watching the film change your perspective of the character before and after shooting?
No! No, I think Diya did a great job of justifying the character. There are lot of contradictions in Bob which make it so interesting to play. I mean he’s a contract killer who is really loveable. That in itself, you know a lovable contract killer is almost an oxymoron. So, it just throws up all these contradiction from the character perspective, that makes him such an interesting role to do. But what are your learnings or unlearning, that’s very difficult to quantify because you invest a lot of yourself into a film, physically and emotionally. So I am sure there are certain learnings, there must be a certain evolvement, you must grow, a film must leave you a better actor, I would like to believe. If it doesn’t, then you have done something wrong. But its very difficult to just quantify it to that extent. I think if I had to say one thing, I think Bob taught me that its possible for me to leave vanity at home and make a film and get away with it. I think in the industry, vanity is a large part of what we do, our images are very important to us. I think that was a big fear obviously that you know, we were kind of going against the grain and that will they accept it and I think the reactions are proof enough that they have accepted it and they appreciate it in fact, so I am thankful for that.
Has there been anything on OTT that you watched, that you really wish you could have an experience of watching in theatre. You really liked it visually?
So, that’s a difficult question to answer because as actors, you don’t get the opportunity to go to the theatre as often as you want to and if you do, you go on the circumstances which don’t really allow you to optimise the viewing experience of the theatre. ‘You know chup ke jaana padta hai, quietly and before the lights come on, you sneak out. You don’t get to sit down and just enjoy the film. So sadly, a lot of us end up seeing films in either a preview or at home. So we are pretty used to seeing stuff on the television (laughs), That’s what I am saying and because we have been part of filmmaking for so long, you know what it could have possibly translated to on screen. So I am pretty used to it. So I have never thought about it in that sense.
All of us spent a lot of time at home and got a lot of time to retrospect. Did you learn something about yourself as an artiste in the last 2 years?
Yes of course, I mean there’s a lot you learn, there’s a lot you observe and like I said, everyday you change and you should try and better yourself, You should try and learn, You should try and make your performance much more effortless. There are so many factors that are going to make a performance. You can’t just say one thing. There is language, there is expression, there is body language, your appearance, your hair, your skin, you know there are so many different things that come together and once they come together positively, we’ll get a good performance. The one thing I think, actors really yearn for is a bit of solitude at the end of the day. You are working with hundreds of people. I think actors somewhere really look forward to some solitude because I think that’s possibly the only time they get to acquaint themselves with somebody they possible don’t know very well and that’s themselves. So, I think lockdown helped do that.
Do you feel like the shift from escapist cinema to realistic cinema is going to stay?
People at the end of the day want entertainment. Entertainment doesn’t mean slapstick comedy. Entertainment means for those 2-3 hours that you are watching a film, you are removed from your actual world, filled with problems and transport it to a different world, when you view something and you feel entertained. Whatever the genre of that be, as long as its good, people will watch it, as simple as that.
What was it like working with the ensemble cast? With Chitrangada, what were the dynamics? Did you have any fun memorable moments on sets?
See, its kind of difficult to break out of character when you are doing a film like Bob. So I mean, it was wonderful, it was very exuberant and youthful set, everybody was so young and dynamic. It was great fun. It was actually new for me to be one of the senior people on set. I was so glad that Paran da came along in the film and he’s absolute legend of Bengali cinema. So, suddenly he became the senior most. People started to call me ‘Sir’, now its a bit uncomfortable because I am used to being the youngest on the set. But it was wonderful. I think they take their work very lightly and what I mean by lightly is they don’t carry their talent with any burden. They don’t need to prove, you know, they just like get on with doing their work. So it was wonderful, I think we had wonderful actors like Chitrangada playing my wife, you know Samara was playing my daughter, who is just such a wonderful wonderful talent, we wish her the best, its her first film, its a special thing and she is wonderful. Then we have Rohit, who played my son and then you have a host of character artistes who are just brilliant . From Bhanu to all of them to Paran Da, its just wonderful.
You shot for the film during the lockdown. How was that experience?
I have to admit, I was one of the first actors who got back to work. I got COVID last year August, and by the end of August, I was back on the set of Big Bull and then started up on Bob. Apart from just seeing people in masks and initially in PPE kits and a bit of sanitisation here and there and people taking your temperature at different stages, work is done the same. Sadly, actors aren’t allowed to wear any of that protective gear because you are in the front of camera. But apart from that, its okay you know. I am just glad people adhered to all the
operating procedures that the government had laid down and they continue to and they have been so far rather diligent about it. But it is what it is.