Post midnight, Amitabh Bachchan sometimes gets an unusual itch – to pick up his mobile and make calls.
In an interview to Mumbai Times, he said that after a day’s work, he has this habit of mentally going over and over again on the shots that he had completed during the day. An idea would suddenly strike him and he would pick up his phone and tell his director that it would have been better if he had done the shot differently or from another angle.
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Most directors would oblige for a retake the next day. But when he was a rising star in the industry, the big daddy directors would dismiss him with a pinch of disdain.
Amitabh recalled one such incident with Hrishikesh Mukherjee, the iconic director of movies tailormade for the common man. Small B (Amitabh had then not yet earned the moniker of Big B as he was a just gaining a foothold during Hirishikesh Mukherjee’s hey days).
Recalled Amitabh: Hrishida would almost slap you and say , `Rubbish! If you want a retake, you better pay for it’.
But Big B is grateful that he had directors who would accommodate his wish. For example, there were times when he had called Manmohan Desai to tell him, `Man…isko ek baar aur kar dete hai’ (I shall do the shot once more).
Manmohan Desai’s initial reaction was dismissive and he said `Ja, ja…sab theek hai’ (Forget it. The shot was fine). But a persistent Amitabh would not put down the receiver (no cell phones those days). To put an end to the call, Manmohan would agree for a retake. But once the shot was completed, Manmohan would have a wry smile and say `Pehle wala take rakhna, yeh bakwaas kiya hai isne’ (The initial take was absolutely fine. Keep that. The retake that he has done was rubbish. Trash it).
Amitabh agreed that there were times when he suggested something and it completely failed.
It must go to his credit that Big B is still a learner despite his iconic status. He continues learning from the crop of young stars and is sometimes intimidated by them!!
Amitabh admitted that he sometimes feels nervous when he is around with younger actors. The nervousness stems from the fact that today’s crop of young actors “are so well developed in their craft that I have great admiration for them. I see the ease with which the younger generation of actors work, that’s the kind of ease that I never had in all these 48 years. I ask them how they are so comfortable doing what they are doing. It is quite amazing, really,” he said in the interview.
Like his baritone voice and modulation are god’s gift, Amitabh feels that Ranbir Kapoor has a god-gifted face. “He does not have to move his face or change his expressions much, he can just stand there and whatever he has to say is conveyed. For an actor, it is the most difficult thing to do”.
The Bollywood Badshah also had words of appreciation for the role played by Ranveer Singh in Bajirao Mastani which was “incredibly perfect”.
Similarly, in the film Highway, Amitabh recalled that Alia Bhatt pulled off a scene with absolute ease – the scene where she consoles a depressed Randeep Hooda. “I cannot forget her expression in that scene. And then you see her in Dear Zindagi where she is unbelievably different. I see films of these actors and I learn a lot from them,” he said.
Amitabh is upset that there is very poor documentation of facts and stories in Bollywood. Hardly anything is left for posterity. And then, in the interview, he reeled out some of the blank spaces in Bollywood’s chequered history.
Said Amitabh: “I would love to know what went through Dilip (Kumar) saab’s mind when he was doing Devdas (1955), how he prepared himself to say those lines in the way he did. What was Guru Dutt thinking when he was making Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), which, according to me, is his most brilliant work… I would love to know why he used a certain kind of lighting or why he used a crane for a certain scene. Why did Raj Kapoor think of making Awaara (1951), and how did Mehboob saab conceive the idea of Mother India (1957)? It is sad that nobody talks about all this. So many greats have gone by and we have no documentation of these facts. After understanding those scenes, maybe you would want to go and watch the film again; it makes it so much more interesting”.
He cited the work done by Harvard University Press on the film Amar Akbar Anthony. An American author analysed the entire film and put it in the context of what India is today and what it means.
In Britain, the School of Asian Studies, teachers analyse Hindi movies frame to frame. “Our audiences are intelligent; it would only make them more aware if we have an archive or library where they can go and see and read all this,” he added.
On Social Media, Amitabh said one has to be careful about what one writes. He often goes through his lines again and again to see if there is anything for readers to read in between the lines. Only when he is sure that there is nothing in between the lines that could be misinterpreted that he puts it on public domain.
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