“I wanted to pause, recalibrate, and come back with a different energy,” says Abhishek Bachchan on taking a break when he was at his peak in the industry
Abhishek Bachchan is at least 60-films-old in the Hindi film industry. Many of his films, since his debut 22 years ago, have been exciting, and his characters memorable. The actor has stood his ground with a rock-solid footing ever since he made his debut with Refugee. Coming from a legacy like his, an actor who is bound to be compared to his legendary father, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek has made his place in the industry with brilliant performances in films like Bunty Aur Babli, Yuva, Guru, Sarkar, Ludo, Bob Biswas, and others.
With his recent Netflix release Dasvi, co-starring Nimrat Kaur and Yami Gautam Dhar, Jr Bachchan has once again proven how good he is as an actor. The plot revolves around Gangaram Chaudhary (Abhishek Bachchan), the CM of the fictional state Harit Pradesh, who is sentenced to judicial custody. To skip jail hardships, the disgraced 50-something Haryanvi politician opts to get back to studies and appear for class 10 board exams during his sentence. He vows that he wouldn’t be a CM again unless he’s Dasvi pass. In an exclusive interview with Man’s World, the actor talks about his character, his time in the industry, and being unapologetic about his work. Excerpts from the interview:
How are you taking in all the love and appreciation you are getting for Dasvi. What was your father’s take on the film?
It’s overwhelming. At times you don’t know how to react. The film was released on April 7th, and the next day I was on the sets of Breathe; so I have not got time to sit and analyse it. Having said that, I am glad that I am still employed and have work. I am grateful to the audience for outpouring so much love and I am happy for Tushar Jalota (Director), my co-actors, and Dinesh Vijan (producer). They have worked hard. When you have someone like Dad expressing so openly, which he usually is reluctant to, it’s wonderful. The sad part is we haven’t met after the release. He is in Delhi shooting for a film and I am in Mumbai. I would love to sit with him and discuss. I feel blessed. The biggest realisation is that it’s all transient and if I am not going to work hard for the next project, this will go away. The audience liked what I did, but they might not like the next one. I have to maintain this.
What was the one thing about the script that made you say yes?
The story was so unique, it was a clutter breaker and I think it was very different from what I have been hearing then. I liked the message that the movie was giving, I liked what Tushar was trying to say and I loved that he wanted to tell a story.
You posted that you want to stop being apologetic for your work. Kudos to you for that. How liberating for was it for you to talk about it?
I am not sure if I want to use the word ‘liberating’. I wrote that as I was very moved and excited by the outcome of the film. I think somewhere we shy in saying ‘Our work is good’. I just wanted to go and put out positive energy into the universe and say ‘Hey look, I am very proud of the film, it’s a film I am happy with’.
It’s been 22 years in this industry and at this stage in your career, what is it that you look for in a script?
It’s always been the same and it will never change – the story. What is in the story, if it is something I want to be a part of, or want to know about as an audience – I ask myself these questions. It all comes down to the writing of the story, the rest of it can follow later.
Raavan, Houseful, Delhi-6, Guru, Sarkar, Bigg Bull, Ludo, Manmaziyaan, Dhoom, Paa, Bob Biswas, Dhai Akshar Prem Ke, Dostana, Bunty Aur Babli… You’ve given us some brilliant films; how do you look at your journey? Was there any time when you thought things might get difficult?
Life is difficult; nobody said that it was going to be easy. It’s survival of the fittest and that’s how life is. I think first thing is to accept that, secondly, if something is coming easily to you then something is wrong. Life is about a transaction, to achieve something, you need to give back something. What you give is in your hand – Blood, sweat, tear, and hard work is the demand of the film industry. The audience rarely decides to love an actor and patronize their work. There are only a handful of actors today that I can say are continuously employed. You are very lucky and blessed if you have continuous work. I have been in this industry for 22 years and I can say I have been working. There are millions of actors who are looking for a job, who are very talented, so you have to be thankful and work very hard. Yes, it’s been difficult and it should be because if things are coming easily to you, then something is off. You got to earn your right to be a film actor, you have to earn the right to be loved by the audience and you have to cherish and work very hard to maintain.
There was a time in your career, you took a break. You were at your peak then. What was the reason behind it and did things change for you after that?
Like I said earlier, things were coming a bit too easy. I was getting work, I was part of immensely successful films, and I was being compensated very handsomely, but it was so easy. I started becoming very complacent with my approach to my work. I realised that’s not the way it should be and if I carry on down this path, it’s going to lead to a problem. I wanted to stop, pause, recalibrate, and come back with different energy and vigour.
The industry comes with a lot of insecurities, do you agree with that?
Of course, it does. But isn’t that part of any profession? Where is this insecurity coming from? What is the root of it? We often question, if we are good enough to get the next job? If you write a bad article, then your editor can easily replace you. The insecurity is about that fear. This insecurity is important as it keeps you on the edge and motivates you to work hard. You can’t allow that insecurity to rule your life and take over it. You can use it to inspire yourself to do better.
Dasvi is an emotion. Students panic when their results are supposed to be announced. They have butterflies in their stomach. I want to know what was the last such moment for you?
A night before Dasvi was released on Netflix and Jio Cinema. I get butterflies before the release of my films. Every release of mine is going to decide my future and determine if I’ll get my next film or not and if I’m going to continue acting. I can’t take it casually.
The movie was released on OTT platforms. Were you skeptical about it?
Dasvi was conceived as a film that would be seen in a theatre, but coming out of a very weird phase where so much was going on, we decided to release it on OTT platforms. We wanted many people to watch the film and that’s happening. If you consider the reach of Jio Cinema which has 40 million subscribers. Even if 10 percent watches the film, that’s also huge. If you translate that to the footfall in theatres, you’ll realise that it’s a huge number. I have not even included Netflix count. This is immense and OTT has great reach.
Do you think OTT is a game-changer and that it may be the best time to be an actor?
I feel resistant to say if this is the best time to be an actor, but it’s surely a very good time because there is yet another medium and platform through which you can work. The demand for creative minds has increased, not just for actors but also for directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, music composers, editors, and sound recorders. Hence, this is a great time for talents that might not have got a platform before. It’s a wonderful time to tell stories.
Any memorable moments?
Currently, it would be the reaction of all the inmates who watched the film. I just cannot forget that. There was an incident that happened while we were shooting- The reason why I promised to screen the film at the Agra Central Jail (where it was shot) was an aged man who was serving his sentence for over 30 years. I was just casually talking to him and he told me that he hasn’t seen his family in the last 20 years. They visited him initially but then stopped as they lived far away. He wanted his family to see him through this film and realise that he exists. That moved me and I wanted to show the inmates the film.
Also, around 20 inmates decided to sit for their board exams, being inspired by the film. What else can I ask for?
I am currently working on Breathe 3. Hopefully, we’ll be completing the shoot by the end of the month.
What is the bond you share with Amit Sadh?
He’s a wonderful person. He has got this tough exterior but inside he is this emotional, soft guy. I love working with him; he is such a fantastic actor. I get to learn so much from him. Apart from that, he is a great guy to be around, very loving and giving as a co-actor. I get very happy working with such a talented person.
(Featured Image Credits: Special arrangement)